Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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The Martyrdom of St. Peter, Michelangelo’s fresco of 1546 in the Cappella Paolina of the Apostolic Palace:

According to tradition, Peter was crucified upside down, either on the Janiculum hill or in a circus arena between two metae, the pair of turning-posts or conical columns set in the ground at each end of the course. Artists have used both settings, depicting Peter on the cross at the moment of being lifted by soldiers, often surrounded by onlookers, or already raised in position, with a small group of women standing by in allusion to the similar group at Christ’s crucifixion.

In Michelangelo’s composition everything is centred in the fearful event; in triumph over pain and suffering. As in the fresco of St Paul, the main protagonist fits into an ellipse placed in the centre of the cross, extended on four sides by the disposition of the figures. This device lends to the design a clarity and strength which is absent from the restless Damascus scene, because there the fallen Saul appears suspended in mid-air at the lower edge of the picture, and the accompanying figures occupy different levels of space. In the Crucifixion, on the other hand, most of the figures are vertical; only those near the centre give the impression of rotating round the martyr. Their features betray the utmost horror, especially those of the women on the lower right who tremble with terror, and several onnlookers seem on the verge of madness

The Conversion of St. Paul on the opposite wall of the Cappella Paolina:

The conversion of Saul (St Paul) is the best-known and most widely represented of the Pauline themes (Acts 9:1-9). On the road to Damascus, where he was going to obtain authorization from the synagogue to arrest Christians, Paul was struck to the ground, blinded by a sudden light from heaven. The voice of God, heard also by Paul’s attendants, as artists make clear, said, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ They led him to the city where, the voice had said, he would told what he had to do. According to a tradition, connected with the medieval Custom of representing pride as a falling horseman, Paul made the journey on horseback. He lies on the ground as if just thrown from his horse, prostrate with awe, or unconcious. He may be wearing Roman armour. Christ appeares in the heavens, perhaps with three angels. Paul’s attendants run to help him or try to control the rearing horses.

In Michelangelo’s fresco the composition shows great depth of feeling obtained by the use of light and darkness that foreshadows Rembrandt and testifies to the heroic virtuosity of the aged master. A focal line traverses the the painting, its progression at once reveals the meaning of the composition. Starting at the top left it flows diagonally, along the figure of Christ descending and a beam of light. It follows a figure with raised fingers and another, bent over the fallen Saul, and circumscribes the ellipse of this body. From his right leg it curves back and upward in the direction of a horse galloping in the background, and loses itself in the undulating contours of the mountains with a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem faintly outlined in their folds – unless we accept a more literal explanation and call it Damascus. The high-light on the head of Saul and on the horse’s head confirms the symbolic meaning; the dim awarness of fallen man is touched by the lightning flash of grace, and as universal conciousness awakens in him, he loses his animal torpor and gains true knowledge.

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