These three panels formed the lower tier of a polyptych showing the three Archangels, Sts Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. Perugino painted these panels for the Carthusian monastery, known as Certosa or charter house, which is outside Pavia. The Archangel Michael is on the left and the Archangel Raphael is on the right. In the upper tier the central panel showed God the Father in glory. An Annunciation was formed by showing the Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel in the panels on either side. In fact, Perugino did not complete these two upper panels, because of the disruption when the French invaded in 1499. Unfortunately, the three panels which are now in the National Gallery in London have suffered much and have been cut down. As a result, some of the original details have been lost. St Michael is shown in armour with a sword and a weighing scales for souls, but most of the figure of Lucifer, upon which he stands, is lost. Similarly, St Raphael is shown with Tobias and the fish, but only the head of the usual accompanying dog remains. It is worth trying to imagine how these panels would have looked in situ. It is thought that originally the background in the three panels was a single continuous landscape. The bright horizon cutting across the three panels must have caught the eye. The blue sky above with the landscape below would evoke the role of the Archangels as intermediaries between heaven and earth. Such translucence and luminous colours were possible only because he painted in oil, using the Netherlandish technique of building up layers of thin glazes. But it is the simplicity of these three panels which I find most striking. For example, the Archangel Raphael is shown in very simple but graceful clothes. Often Raphael is adorned with the elaborate clothes and hairstyles of the contemporary fashion. A good example would be “Tobias and the Angel” from the workshop of Verrocchio (1470-5), also in the National Gallery’s collection. Perugino’s deliberate simplicity speaks of the heavenly and eternal, rather than the earthly here and now. In this altarpiece the focus is on the Archangels themselves, whose intercession was sought in prayer. The details are there merely as attributes.
The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.
The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.