St. Luke

Mid-12th century
Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio ("The Martorana"), Palermo, Sicily

Luke's gospel begins,

"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us; According as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word it seemed good to me also…to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mayest know the verity of those words in which thou hast been instructed."

The witness of those ministers, albeit oral, is nevertheless represented by the book or sheaf of papers on Luke's lap, its "verity" affirmed by the small cross on the outer leaf. The exegetes contrast it with the "rash" accounts (Eusebius) circulating at the time, with their "manifold heresies" (Bede) "which the good moneychanger refuses to pass" (Ambrose).1

With one hand touching the document on his lap, Luke writes his faithful account with the other. The Greek words to his left identify him as ο Άγιος ΛΟΥΚΑC, "St. Luke," and on the surrounding banderole are the opening words of his gospel, επειδηπερ πολλοι επεχειρησαν αναταξασθαι, "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth…."

The writing-stand is like those in the dome's other images of the evangelists and gives one an idea of how such furniture may have looked in medieval Sicily.

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

1 Aquinas, Catena III, i, 5-6.