By Lydia O’Kane – Bratislava
On entering St Martin’s Cathedral in the heart of Bratislava’s city centre, it’s impossible to miss the imposing bronze sculpture which ranks among the greatest artistic treasures in the capital.
It’s entitled “St Martin and Beggar” and is placed on a marble pedestal on the right side of the nave, in the southeast corner of the cathedral.
The work, which depicts St Martin sitting on a horse, holding a sword, and bending down to a beggar to give him a piece of his cloak, is the work of Austrian sculptor, Georg Raphael Donner who completed it in 1735.
Its message of charity and mercy mirrors that of the Gospels.
St Martin has become one of Europe’s most popular saints. He came from a pagan family but became a soldier and philanthropic Christian.
It seems fitting, therefore, that Pope Francis, who has made the care of the poor and marginalized one of the cornerstones of his pontificate, should receive a miniature reproduction of this sculpture during a visit on Monday morning to St Martin’s Cathedral, where he will also address priests and religious.
The work, made by Francesco Ciardiello, is a gift from the faithful here in Slovakia to a Pope who calls us not to “identify almsgiving with the simple coin offered in haste, without looking at the person and without stopping to talk, to understand what he or she truly needs.”