TRINITY SUNDAY : AN OLD PICTURE
The English College in Rome, for the training of priests, is built on the site of an English Hospice for pilgrims, one of a number going back to the 1300s or earlier. The English College has the title ‘Venerable’ in honour of the 44 former students who were put to death for their faith in penal times, 16th-17th century England. In the College Chapel there is the so-called ‘Martyrs Picture’ including the figure of Saint Thomas Becket, martyr, who gives his name to the Chapel. The picture, however, is centred on a depiction of the Trinity with the figure of the Father holding the Cross where Jesus suffers and a dove rests over Jesus’ head, the Holy Spirit. Facing this picture (in a chapel later destroyed) the students would sing a hymn to the Trinity (‘Te Deum’ or in English ‘Holy God we praise thy name’) when news came through of the most recent martyr. It is a fine painting although Pope Paul VI (1963-78) later said the heavenly Father should not be figuratively depicted and the mystery of God in early centuries was shown by a Cloud and hand.
Picture by Durante Alberti, 1580. Picture from Archdiocese of Southwark website http://www.rcsouthwark.co.uk/vec_02.html