Raphael, 'Christ's Charge to Peter'
Bodycolour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvas
Height 343 cm x width 532 cm
On loan from HM Queen Elizabeth II; rcin 912945
'And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'
'So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him, the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.'
From the fifth century the two events depicted here were sometimes conflated. At Caesarea Philippi, Christ addresses his disciples and says to Peter: 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' After the Resurrection he appears to seven of the disciples at the sea of Tiberias and charges Peter : 'Feed my sheep.' These two texts from the Gospels were the most important scriptural justifications of papal authority. They emphasize that Christ selected Peter as the foundation stone of the Church, and demonstrate his pre-eminence among the Apostles.
Here, Christ gestures with one hand towards the flock of sheep and with the other to the kneeling figure of Peter, at the head of the solid phalanx of Apostles. The focal point of this dramatic composition is Christ's pointing finger, which invests Peter with leadership of the Church.