'The Sacrifice at Lystra'

'The Sacrifice at Lystra'

Raphael
'The Sacrifice at Lystra'
1515-16
Bodycolour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvas
Height 347cm x width 532 cm
On loan from HM Queen Elizabeth II; rcin 912949 (Acts 14:8-18)

Paul and Barnabas (standing at left) have just cured a lame man in the city of Lystra (now Hatunsaray, in modern Turkey). Because of this miraculous cure, the Lystrians mistake the two men for the gods Jupiter and Mercury and try to offer a sacrifice to them. Paul tears his garments in fury at this act of idolatry, while Barnabas pleads with the crowd to stop the sacrifice. A young man in the crowd responds to Paul's anger and Barnabas's entreaties, leaning toward the executioner to prevent him from slaughtering an ox. Raphael has filled the scene with pagan motifs, such as the statue of Mercury in the background and the fantastic images on the altar in the foreground, to demonstrate that the people of Lystra are idolatrous. However, classical, pagan ideas and stories enjoyed a revival during the Renaissance and the view that they were inimical to Christianity was being challenged. At the time Raphael began designing the cartoons, Pope Leo had appointed him Commissioner of Antiquities, putting him in close and frequent contact with Rome's classical past.