St. Nicholas’ bread, the blessed bread
At the Basilica of St. Nicola in Tolentino it is possible to buy the bread of the Saint, small unleavened breads, like crackers, coarse and simple, but of great spiritual significance. These breads entered into traditions, when St. Nicholas was seriously ill. The superiors told not to observe the fast of Lent, but Nicholas continued fasting praying for recovery. Then the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him with Jesus in her arms and bade him, "Ask for charity, in the name of my Son, a loaf of bread. When you have received, dip it in water, eat and thanks to my intercession you regain the health". So Nicholas ate the holy bread received in charity from a woman of Tolentino and recovered miraculously. Since then Nicholas began to distribute the blessed bread to the poor and sick to be cured from the disease by praying the Virgin Mary. The custom spread and soon the blessed bread was used in various misfortunes such as diseases, fires, storms, epidemics. Many miracles connected to this bread are known in Italy, Belgium, Spain (in Cordoba, where a terrible plague raged in 1601-1602), Peru, Bolivia and other parts of Latin America.
Image: "St. Nicholas giving the blessed bread", diorama in the Basilica of St. Nicholas, Tolentino, Italy.
Copyright Historia Vivens Web
St Nicholas of Tolentino is usually depicted in the black Augustinian habit (from the Hermits of St. Augustine), holding a bird on a plate in the right hand and a crucifix on the other hand; holding a basket of bread, giving bread to a sick person; holding a lily or a crucifix garlanded with lilies; with a star above him or on his breast.
A sunburst, usually with a child's face in it, is a common attribute of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, often on the breast of his black Augustinian habit. The façade of the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Tolentino has a huge sunburst, also with a child's face in the center. The sunburst may refer to a vision of a star that led him to Tolentino, where he spent much of his life and activity. The child's face may reflect an episode in St Nicholas’ life, when the saint recounts having seen the face of the Christ Child in the host at Mass.
Image: “St. Nicholas of Tolentino”, circa 1670, ceramic placard at Sevilla, old convent of Santa Paula, by an anonymous artist.
Source: By unknown (painting) / Antonio Entrena Aznarte (photo) (http://www.retabloceramico.net/0936.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons