The Pharisee and the Publican

6th century
Church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, left side of nave

This is one of the 13 mosaics along the upper band of the left wall of the nave that follow the life of Christ. Deliyannis (154) identifies it as the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18:9-14. On the right, the Pharisee brags to God about his piety. On the left publican "would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner'" (Luke 18:13).

It seems clear that the publican is the man on the left, beating his breast and not raising his eyes. What is not clear is why someone just like the publican, with the same clothes, beard, and hair, appears again, apparently as an associate of Caiaphas, in the panels on Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin and the Way of the Cross.

This is the only scene in the entire series from the life of Christ that does not have Jesus in it.

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Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.