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

The Kerygma—What It Is and Why It Matters, Part II: Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection
By Dr. Chris Burgwald
Introduction Over the last several decades, theologians who focus on evangelization in general, and the moment of catechesis within it in particular, have given considerable thought and attention to the topic of the kerygma, and rightly so. The kerygma can be aptly understood to be the summary of the Gospel; and, as such, it is always deserving of... Read more
RCIA & Adult Faith Formation: Do Your Catechumens Know Jesus Gets Them to Heaven? Part 1
By Fr. Drake McCalister
Since becoming Catholic in 2004, I have encountered many, many Catholics who do not understand grace, salvation, or how they are granted access to heaven. Many have revealed they live in fear of going to hell because of some unknown, unconfessed sin or that their understanding of how they are saved is solely based on their works. These Catholics... Read more
The Spiritual Life: Discipleship into Relationship—Discussing the Thresholds of Union
By Claire Dwyer
Life is a Journey We are on a journey. Our life, we know, is not meant to be static. It is rather an ever-deepening growth in union with the God who created us. He deliberately left an emptiness within us, a chasm, a desire. That longing is an invitation to set out and begin to seek God, to develop a relationship with him, which grows and develops... 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