Sunday, July 10, 2011

Another Paul - The Pontifical Commission for Sacred Art announces the discovery of a 6th century image of the Apostle in the catacombs of St. Gennaro in Naples

(L’Osservatore Romano) A year after the discovery of the cell of the apostles in the Roman catacombs of St. Tecla, another sensational discovery has been found in the catacombs of St. Gennaro in Naples. The restoration of an arcosolium has revealed a great figure of St. Paul who is turned towards one of the deceased in acclamation. The image, which is from the first years of the 6th century, is one of the most intense of late antiquity, before the Apostle became an icon of Byzantine civilization.The fresco found in Naples His face, extremely expressive and characterized by the particular physiognomy of a philosopher, is similar to the Roman representations of the same period and those brought to light a few years ago in the oratory of the grottos in Ephesus.

The discovery of this Pauline image, which occurred during the restorations organized by the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archeology, with the support of the Archdiocese and the Neapolitan community, enriches and defines our understanding of the iconographic evolution of the prince of the apostles, begun in Rome at the end of the 4th century and diffused from that moment in all of the ancient Christian world.

In this context, the figure of Paul represents iconographically the evocative crossroads of Jewish, Roman and Greek culture and identity which he incarnated and which characterized his work and missionary activity in all of the Mediterranean. This particular combination must have influenced the figurative fortune of the Apostle in the Neapolitan metropolis, which was proverbially multiethnic and which he experienced in the final trip which led him to the capital for prison and his last days.

This fate, in time, came to be shared with Peter, constituting a natural parallel of that concordia apostolorum, which connects the two most important witnesses of Christ. It is the emblem of the spiritual, religious and political link between Ecclesia ex gentibus with Ecclesia ex circumcisione, but also of the East with the West.

Gianfranco Ravasi

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