In December of 2013, the new St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina was dedicated. Since I was baptized in that church and attended the parochial school, I offered to create a painting as a memorial to my parents who were lifelong members and as a memorial to my lost grandson.
The architect, Duncan Stroik of South Bend, Indiana, drew two spaces for paintings on the rear wall of the nave. The subject of the first painting was to be the “Holy Infant of Prague with Angels”; the second painting was to be “St. Paul Shipwrecked on Malta” commissioned by the daughters of Mrs. Juliette Eaves, who was originally from Malta and a long-time member of St. Paul's.
In the case of both paintings, considerable research was required. In February of 2014, I travelled to Malta to visit St. Paul’s Bay and to consult with Monsignor John Azzopardi who is a respected authority and author of several books on Pauline Malta. In this capacity, he generously pointed out crucial elements required for any depiction of St.Paul on Malta. Besides the usual attributes of the saint, the correct color of the tunic and mantle and the inclusion of the centurion are essential for a complete illustration of the legend.
Monsignor Azzopardi is also the curator of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina. As part of his curatorial activities, he maintains a list of works of art pertaining to the Pauline legend. My depiction of “St.Paul Shipwrecked” has been added to that list.
“The Holy Infant of Prague With Angels” was created around the miraculous statue of the child Jesus which is preserved in the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague by the Carmelite Order. The actual sculpture is installed on an altar which is of High Baroque design. Since my painting was to be installed in a Lombard Romanesque style church with a Brunelleschi like interior, I decided to use the more austere, Venetian altarpieces as the inspiration for the painting. On either side of the “cloth of honor” is the city of Prague. The English translation of the Latin inscription on the scroll is “Honor Me And You Shall Never Want”.
Over each painting is a coat of arms. In the case of St. Paul, the arms are those of the Sovereign Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta. In the case of the Holy Infant, the arms are those of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites. Interestingly, Emperor Joseph II of Austria, in the spirit of the Enlightenment and having deemed contemplative monastic life as non-productive, abolished the monastery of the Carmelites in 1784. Our Lady Victorious then came under the care of the Knights of St. John until 1993 when it was returned to the Carmelites.
The paintings are on canvas and measure 96 x 55 inches. The roundels measure 48 inches in diameter.