Anonymous painter of the Cretan school (perhaps Michail Damaskenos 1530/35-1592/93)
The Apostles Peter and Paul
Middle to second half 16th century
58 x 43 cm
Tempera and gold on wood
Musée du Louvre, Paris
It is a simple yet profound work. Saints Peter and Paul hold up the Church instituted by Christ
Peter and Paul are shown as the two pillars of the Church: without them, the edifice would fall
Peter was first among the Apostles and the first to suffer martyrdom, Paul second. But as St Augustine said, they were "as one" or as some might say "in communion"
At the time was work was complefed, the Cretan school of painting was renowned. Crete itself was under the rule of Venice from 1204 until 1669
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is of course a solemnity on which the Metropolitans traditionally receive the pallium from the Pope
It is also marked as a special day in the Calendar of the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches
It is the day which celebrates their martyrdoms which occurred on different days: martyrdom for Christ, the figure in the background of the painting
The work recalls the Pauline expression the Church is the Body of Christ . The root and centre of the Church is in the Blessed Eucharist. It is the force which unites the Church
"Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with him and with one another. 'Because the bread is one, we, though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread' (1 Cor 10, 17)"
The image of St Peter reminds us that the unity of the Church is rooted in the unity of the Episcopate. This is fortified by the apostolic succession of bishops from St Peter and the Apostles together with the primacy over the bishop sof The Bishop of Rome, the See of St Peter