March 27th 2021

“The Crucifixion”, , 1627,  Francisco de Zurbarán, The Art Institute of Chicago, Robert A. waller Memorial Fund.   You can view this image in high resolution on the Art Institute website at

This brightly lit figure of the dead Christ on the cross emerges out of darkness.   When people saw this painting hanging in the dimly lit sacristy of the Dominican Priory of San Pablo el Real in Seville, they though it was sculpture. I remember experiencing the same illusion when I saw it in the exhibition “The Sacred made Real” at London’s National Gallery in 2009.  Zurbarán has set aside the passion narrative, so that we focus on the dead Christ alone.  There is almost no blood.  Only the nails and their wounds are visible.  In a manner peculiar to Zurbarán’s circle, the feet are nailed separately,  so that  the figure does not hang on the cross but rather stands before us held to the cross by nails.  The viewer contemplates the dead body of Christ portrayed with great realism.  This is no ordinary death. It is the one embraced willingly by the Son of God,  so that in our dimly lit world, even death itself is conquered.  


Edinburgh Catholic Chaplaincy

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.

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