Photography is a relatively recent invention, and as such, the appearances of the majority of saints have only been captured in portraits, icons, and other constructed media.

What is the oldest surviving photograph of someone who was later canonized as a saint?


2 Answers 2


St. Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879), the Lourdes visionary, is the first saint of Ann Ball's Modern Saints: Their Lives and Faces to feature a photograph:

photograph of St. Bernadette

Bernadette was photographed often and her pictures were sold everywhere; she joked, "I am on sale for [ten cents] at every street corner!"

The photograph above was taken at some point in the 1860s.


St. John Vianney could have been the oldest, but

During his lifetime, the Curé d'Ars has always refused to pose for a portrait or to be photographed. In the absence of such a testimony of the physical reality of the saint, one could legitimately wonder about the fidelity of the many images representing him. This uncertainty led, in [September] 1959, the Sacerdotal Session, on the occasion of the centenary of his death, to ask the divisional commissioner Chabot to make a "robot photo" of the Curé of Ars from various documents presenting a scientific certainty, essentially the mortuary photographs. The photo reproduced here is the result of this command.

Saint Jean-Marie Vianney

St. John Vianney

So I don't know if this counts but its more photo realistic, and probably from right around the same time as St. Bernadette's photo

  • This image was produced 100 years after St. Bernadette. The mortuary photographs may still exist, but it's going to be very hard to see them.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 12:40
  • This doesn't qualify as a direct answer to the question, but is closely related and well-justified to be posted as an answer.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 1:47

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