The Beggar

Oil painting of figure in coat

The full title of this oil painting is…

The Beggar Feeling Awkwardly Clad in Saint Martin’s Famous Cloak.

It has to do with some Latin words – cappa, capella, cappella, capellani – the tendency humans have to impose their will on others and to fixate on the most pointless of things..

The story is of of a guy called Martin who whilst out-and-about on his horse sees a poor bloke getting around in the buff, so he cuts his military cloak in half to share with the naked beggar. This was a decent thing to do, people admired him for it. Martin kept the other half of his cloak and wore it around his shoulders as a cape (that’s the cappa bit, perhaps that should be mezzo cappa).

People liked the ideal of this story but over time, instead of actually doing any good works of their own for the local, nude beggars, they became fixated on the half-a-cloak itself. They kept it close-by, even taking it to war with them where the chaplains (there’s another one, chaplain – capellani) in the army housed it in a tent (tent – cover, cape, capella) the same tent where they conducted their religious services. So over time, what is now the Chapel got its name from what this guy Martin started way back when.

Now I know you know all that, so what’s my point? Well, what if, today, I don’t want to wear that cloak? What if I don’t care to participate in the redundant religious assumptions of our time? What if I’d rather go nude? My point is – nude is good. Letting it all hang out, sans-dogma style, is not pudendal – there is no shame. It is an aberration of reason to think otherwise. Keep your saints away from me – I prefer to travel unaccompanied but perhaps not a cappella.

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