Art Notes: The Crucifixion by Raphael

Authored by Dr. Lionel Gracey in Issue #35.1 of The Sower

Painted in 1503, when Raphael was only twenty years old, this work could easily be mistaken for one by Raphael’s master, Perugino. The painting, however, is signed and dated at the foot of the Cross, so the provenance is certain. It was made as an altarpiece for a side chapel dedicated to St. Jerome in the Church of San Domanico, Citta di Castello, in Tuscany. The stone frame for the painting is still in place. Below it, the Predella comprised three paintings of episodes in the life of St. Jerome, but these have also been removed, though two survived.

Raphael depicts the moment of Christ’s death on the Cross. Two angels with communion chalices collect the blood gushing from the wounds in the Saviour’s hands and side. Beneath the Cross the Virgin and St John are shown standing, while the two penitents, St. Jerome and St. Mary Magdalene, are kneeling.

St. Jerome carries a stone in his right hand with which to beat his bare breast in mortification. The Cross and the human figures are set on bare earth, but further back there is life-giving water, and vegetation covers the ground, ground which merges gently with the heavenly horizon. Above the Cross, the sun and a darkened moon attest to the cosmic significance of the event being enacted below.

This is a richly symbolic painting, the central theme of which is the Eucharist. Notice first the Cross on which the Saviour hangs. This extends from top to bottom of the painting and signifies that only through the Cross may earth and heaven be reunited.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Editor's Reflections: Adult Faith Formation and Culture Change
By Dr. James Pauley
Free This year marks the twentieth anniversary of one of the most important publications the U.S. Bishops have ever written: Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us . The ideals and principles expressed in this document are deeply convicting and can be summed up with these stirring words: “adult faith formation is essential to who we are and what we do as... Read more
From the Shepherds: Catechesis in the Light of the Papal Magisterium of Pope Francis Evangelii gaudium - An Access to the Church’s Mission
By Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst
Free Looking back on the past and on the development of the church since the Second Vatican Council, there are two well-known and profound documents, which have brought the biblical call for evangelization into our pastoral consciousness: Evangelii nuntiandi in 1974 and Evangelii gaudium in 2013. Both apostolic letters have reflected on the manner in... Read more
Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Reflection on Discipleship
By Peter J. Murphy
Do you feel the Holy Spirit working? Do you sense that deeper calling, that desire for renewal, that burning within your heart? Yes, it is the same burning that the disciples on the road to Emmaus felt as their Lord and Savior journeyed with them. Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us was written twenty years ago as a prophetic and challenging... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now