Saint Paul’s, the Antwerp Dominican church, a revelation.

Saint Paul: the patron saint

Saint Paul
Saint Paul

Paul’ identity card

born: ca. 8 in Tarsus in Southern Asia Minor, as a Jew, from the tribe of Benjamin, but he also had Roman civil rights (Acts 16:32; 22:28).
education: strictly Jewish (Acts 26:5), religious training into a convinced true Pharisee in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:14). He was familiar with philosophy and Greek literature (Acts 17:18) and poetry (Tit. 1:12).
First name: Saul (Lat.: ‘Saulus’), which means ‘the one that has been begged from the Lord’.
second, Roman name: ‘Paulus’ (‘the small one)
profession: rabbi and scribe, also a tentmaker (Acts 18:3)
conversion: initially he was a fanatic persecutor of Christians (Gal. 1:13), who agreed with Stephen’s cruel death. Shortly after this, ca. 37, he converted to Christianity on his way to Damascus: expressively told in a story about a vision of Christ that blinded him and made him fall to the ground (Acts 9:1).
‘apostle’: Although he never knew Jesus personally, he later (Gal. 1:17) became ‘apostle’, proclaimer of the faith, even though, due to his part in the persecutions of Christians, he did not feel worthy of this title (1 Cor. 15:8-9). In the year 44, at the so-called Apostolic Conference in Jerusalem he pleaded for preaching the gospel among the peoples, without the commitments of Jewish law, such as circumcision (Gal. 2:7).
missionary trips: After his first three missionary trips he was imprisoned in Caesarea in 58 AD. But he appealed his case to the imperial tribunal. During his fourth voyage, via Crete, he was shipwrecked at Malta, and went to Rome via Syracuse. There he was put under house arrest for a while.
writings: The fourteen epistles that are traditionally attributed to Paul, were meant to be read out loud to the young Christian communities of important ancient towns. This makes him, after the four evangelists, the most important writer of the New Testament.
death: About 67 AD he was taken prisoner in Rome. According to tradition he died a martyr on 29th June, the same day as Peter. As he was a Roman citizen he was beheaded (with a sword) in the times of Emperor Nero.
surname: ‘Teacher of the peoples’ (doctor gentium), because the Apostolic Conference in Jerusalem decided that Peter would preach the Gospel among the Jews (‘the circumcised’) and Paul among the ‘non-Jews’ (‘the uncircumcised’) or the gentiles (Gal. 2:7-8).
Saint’s days:  25th January (Paul’s conversion); 29th June (‘Peter and Paul’)

In art Paul can be recognized

AS BY
a saint: the aureole. In other words: a Saint, in whom God’s salvation can be experienced more, radiates God’s light of love and wisdom.
apostle: a book or scroll, open or closed. Since his conversion he took Christ, ‘The word of God’, for the guidance of his life, and like the other apostles, preached Jesus’ Gospel to everyone.

barefooted: “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals” (Lc. 10:4); “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!” (Rom. 10:15), which is based on Isaiah (52:7).

Jewish scribe: a voluminous book, which stands for the entire Bible. As a Jewish scribe he studied the so-called Old Testament. Since his conversion he considered this as the precursor of the New Testament.
author of Epistles: a parchment folio or banderol. His Epistles that were included in the New Testament are evidently represented by Paul’s attribute as an apostle, the Bible.
preacher and ‘teacher of the peoples’: a rhetoric pose, i.e. one arm lifted up and open handed.
2nd most important apostle: in a series of apostles he mostly takes the second position, after Peter, in conformity with the first or ‘Roman’ canon of the Holy Mass. Therefore the twelfth and official apostle Matthias has to stand aside. Also apart from this series Paul and Peter are considered ‘the princes of the apostles’. The fact that he is nearly as important as Peter is thanks to his contribution to evangelization as ‘teacher of the peoples’.
martyr: the sword, the instrument of his death as a martyr by decapitation, and the palm as a sign of victory. The martyr, who in the world is a loser, obtains the final victory with God and at his Joyous Entry into Heavenly Jerusalem he is welcomed with waving palms.
own physiognomy: often bald, usually with a long beard
patron of Rome: in the company of Peter and with a Roman building in the background. After all both were buried in Rome after their deaths as martyrs. ‘To go to the apostle’s tombs’ means to go on a pilgrimage to Rome.