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Introduction to the Apostles

Painters of religious art did not just paint scenes of the Virgin Mary and of the life of Jesus. The number of religious themes was far vaster. Jesus was accompanied by disciples among whom the twelve first who were called the apostles. After Jesus’ death a few other disciples led the early Christian community. These were Stephen, the first Dean, Paul, Barnabas and others. They were the heroes of the first days of Christianity. Without their tenacity Christendom would not have existed. They were formidable figures and as such I included pictures of their theme in this book. Over the centuries legends developed, constructed from folklore and often linked with real historical events and places. There were various sources for these legends in literature, but most of them were compiled in the ‘Golden Legend’.

In the following chapters we will present each time one or a few representative or interesting pictures of these men. We start with representative paintings of the four Evangelists who wrote the New Testament, Mark and Matthew, Luke and John. Then we show themes of Peter and Paul, of the lesser figures Philip and Stephen. Finally, we could not address Christian spirituality without mentioning the most important medieval pilgrimage sites of Europe, Compostella and Rocamadour. Compostella is the supposed burial site of Saint James so we close this part with the warrior-knight of Christ and show his role as a symbol of the conquest of Spain on the Muslim Moors.

The teaching of Jesus as told in the Bible is very demanding. Jesus preached a very logical, extreme dedication to the adoration of God. Only few humans could live according to this message of Jesus. To those who did, miraculous feats were ascribed and their lives were examples for the Christian community. Such examples of zealous followers of Christ were called saints. Extraordinary people attract legends as the memory of them makes them still greater than reality and is added to with passing time to deeds ever more tantalising, ever more unattainable for most of the Christians. These saints were the examples of transcendence attained and thus the ultimate admiration of the Church.

The rich legends were a welcome subject for painters. The hundreds of churches and monasteries dedicated to the cult of the saints were as many commissioners of pictures. Thus there is a very ample art on the saints, most of who were martyred in violent death. We only present an extract of the many themes on the best-known saints.

This book is much about spirituality. We present some of the themes of spirituality that were not visually realised in themes of apostles or saints but as abstract ideas. Most of these themes were connected to Christianism and they handle recurrent scenes of emotions of humans placed, sometimes unconsciously, in a devotional perspective.

The book 'Apostles' comprises the following paragraphs:


Copyright: René Dewil Back to the navigation screen (if that screen has been closed) Last updated: January 2007
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