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Pope Francis

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Vatican exhibits some of the oldest representations of Saint Paul

2009-07-03

The highlight of this exhibition are the four sarcophagi that speak of history and religion. Its reliefs reveal the earliest depictions of Saint Paul by early Christians.

Cristina Gennaccari
Vatican Museums 

They are important because they were found in the area of Saint Paul, exactly below the main altar. In fact, they have marks on the sides because they fit beneath the altar where there is the apostle’s tomb.  

Perhaps this is the most important sepulcher of the exhibition because it includes one of the most antiques images of Saint Paul.

The exhibition shows the different representations that have been made of Saint Paul. Initially, he was represented as a philosopher and with an appearance similar to Peter.  
 
Cristina Gennaccari
Vatican Museums

St. Paul is considered the first apostle who made the first theoretical vision of Christianity, that was his mission and that was how he spent his time: proclaiming the message. He is a very special figure and that’s why they thought of him as a philosopher. He is represented as a bald man, with a pointed beard and strong bone features.

In other representations of Saint Paul found in the catacombs, he was shown with books. However, in this sarcophagus he is shown next to a soldier who is unsheathing his sword.

Cristina Gennaccari
Vatican Museums

Initially, Saint Peter and Saint Paul were represented in a very similar way but later on they started to be depicted differently: Peter with short hair and a full beard and Saint Paul almost bald, a pointed beard or sometimes only around the mouth.

Saint Paul’s exhibition include many works of art, like the first translations of Saint Paul’s texts, read over the centuries by millions of Christians.