- Paul was born to Jewish parents who named him Saul and he was educated by the rabbi Gamaliel. As a native of Tarsus, now Turkey, he was considered a Roman citizen. He became a radical persecutor of Christians and, on his way to Damascus to arrest some of these faithful and to bring them back to Jerusalem for prosecution, he experienced a vision that caused his conversion to Christianity— a scene depicted dramatically by Caravaggio in the Cerasi Chapel (1600) at Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Rejected by his own people for converting, Paul spent three years in Arabia and then in Damascus where he preached. Back in Jerusalem, he met up with the apostles and was accepted into the Christian community. He set out to preach the Gospel in Cyprus, Perga, Antioch, and Lycaonia, and, during this journey, he changed his name from Saul to Paul. A second mission led him to Europe and he founded churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, and Corinth. After a third journey to evangelize the world, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, tried, and beheaded in Rome on the same day as St. Peter's crucifixion.Since the martyrdoms of these two saints coincide, the two scenes are often paired in art, as the example of the Cerasi Chapel denotes. Michelangelo also paired them in the Pauline Chapel at the Vatican (1542-1550), while scenes from the lives of both saints are included in Cimabue's frescoes in the transept of the Upper Church of San Francesco in Assisi (after 1279). In 1515, Leo X commissioned Raphael to render cartoons for a series of 10 tapestries to be hung on the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican, depicting the Acts of Sts. Peter and Paul (London, Victoria and Albert Museum). These include St. Paul preaching to the Athenians and the blinding of Elymas, a magus who prevented Proconsul Sergius Paulus from hearing the word of God from Paul, so the saint struck him with temporary blindness, effecting Sergius' immediate conversion to Christianity.
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.
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