Art that comforts

Vatican Museums: The Works of Mercy #1

"Proclaiming Christ means showing that believing in Him and following Him is not only true and right, but also beautiful. At the heart of the Gospel lies the beauty of God's saving love, manifested in Jesus Christ who died and rose again." Inspired by these words of Pope Francis, the Vatican Museums and Vatican News have teamed up again to explore the masterpieces in the papal collections accompanied by the words of the Popes.

Olivuccio di Ciccarello, “The Works of Mercy”, 1404, tempera and gilding on poplar, Vatican Museums, Art Gallery © Musei Vaticani

These paintings depict the Works of Mercy. The iconographic theme is inspired by the Gospel of Matthew, in which Christ teaches the righteous how to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. The Works of Mercy are: To feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, and to host pilgrims, which in this scene are depicted together; to clothe the naked; to help the sick; to visit prisoners; and, to bury the dead, which was added during the Middle Ages. This artwork is a witness to faith, as well as a historical document. It is also a work of theology: In these scenes, the needy person resembles the figure of Christ, who is represented with a golden halo around His head. What is done to the least of His brothers and sisters is done to Him.

© Musei Vaticani
© Musei Vaticani

“Only when the difficulties and suffering of others confront and question us may we begin our journey of conversion towards Easter. It is an itinerary which involves the Cross and self-denial. Today’s Gospel indicates the elements of this spiritual journey: prayer, fasting and almsgiving (cf. Mt 6:1-6; 16-18). All three exclude the need for appearances: what counts is not appearances; the value of life does not depend on the approval of others or on success, but on what we have inside us.”

(Pope Francis – Ash Wednesday – 5 March 2014)

Under the direction of Paolo Ondarza
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17 February 2021, 09:00