Rome is home to a host of early Biblical Art. We have below a list of what we consider Rome’s top ten list of New Testatement Biblical works that are located around the city. Even though they were painted primarily in the 1600’s, it is fantastic to see the depictions of our early brothers and sisters lives that are outlined in The Word. We have compiled a list of ten artworks currently hanging in museums in Rome. All of these pieces were painted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, an Italian artist actively engaged in Baroque art. Guests on our Bible-based Christian cruises have the option of purchasing a Rome extension and engaging in a Christian tour.
The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
San Luigi dei Fancesi
This painting was completed in 1600 and was the first of the three Matthew paintings to be installed in the Contarelli Chapel in Rome. This painting depicts Matthew being killed by a soldier commissioned by the king of Ethiopia. It is believed that the King lusted after his own niece, a nun, and was rebuked by Matthew. The cardinal of Contarelli Chapel spelled out explicitly what he wanted depicted in the painting.
The Calling of Saint Matthew
San Luigi dei Francesi
Completed by Caravaggio, this painting completed in 1600 depicts the encounter between Matthew and Jesus. In Matthew 9:9 it is written “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” This painting was originally created for use by the Contarelli Chapel in Rome.
Inspiration of Saint Matthew
San Luigi dei Francesi
The third canvas depicting the plight of Matthew hangs alongside the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and the Calling of Saint Matthew in the same Roman church. Completed in 1602 this painting depicts Matthew at a writing desk while an angel descends from above.
Boy with a Basket of Fruit
This painting also created by Caravaggio currently resides in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Originally painted in 1593, Caravaggio used his friend, also a painter, 16-year-old Mario Minniti as a model.
David with the Head of Goliath
Also housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, David with the Head of Goliath, created in 1610, depicts a well-known story of battle and courage for many Christians.It is believed the painting is meant to depict the power of good over evil; David standing for Christ and Goliath standing for Satan presumably battle it out while what is shown is the end result of fight where David (good) is believed to be the underdog.
The Fortune Teller
Two versions of this painting exist: the first, painted in 1594 hangs in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, while the second, painted in 1595 sits in the Louvre in Paris. This painting is only one of two paintings completed by Caravaggio to be considered a genre piece. Most of Caravaggio’s work centered on Biblical representation, yet this painting is important as it depicts a life lived in a secular world.
John the Baptist (Youth with a Ram)
Completed in 1602, this painting depicts a young John the Baptist resting on a red cloak while clutching the head of a Ram. This painting, like The Fortune Teller resides in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Conversion on the Way to Damascus Santa Maria del Popolo Created in 1601, this painting depicts the moment when Saul converts to Christianity and takes the name Paul. Acts 9 states “As neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” It is the ultimate story of a redemptive love provided only by Jesus Christ.
Crucifixion of Saint Peter
Santa Maria del Popolo
Originally painted in 1601, this painting depicts the martyrdom and crucifixion of St. Peter. Peter requested his cross hang upside down so as not to mimic the crucifixion of Jesus. This painting is a juxtaposition to the Conversion of Saint Paul which actually is hanging directly across from this piece.
The Entombment of Christ
This painting depicts what followed after Jesus’ death by crucifixion.Joseph of Arimathea requested Jesus’ body from Pilate. Once received, he wrapped the body in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb. Matthew 27:66 says they “made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”
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