Matthew & art

Today’s feast of St. Matthew is the perfect opportunity to recall Pope Francis speaking on what he calls a favourite work of art, Caravaggio’s calling of St. Matthew.

Last month I was able to spend some time at the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in where this painting (partly due to Pope Francis’ promotion) has become the central attraction.

While crowds flock to see the painting, the chapel and especially the area around this great work of art is a place of prayer. People are captivated by the work, and it is difficult to remain a spectator when in the presence of the painting which demands active participation. The viewer quickly becomes the one called in the heart of the action.

In the words of Pope Francis:

Speaking about the encounter brings to mind “The calling of St Matthew”, the Caravaggio in the Church of St Louis of the French, which I used to spend much time in front of every time I came to Rome. None of them who were there, including Matthew, greedy for money, could believe the message in that finger pointing at him, the message in those eyes that looked at him with mercy and chose him for the sequela. He felt this astonishment of the encounter. The encounter with Christ who comes and invites us is like this.

Matthew Caravaggio

Some of the reflections on the painting along the walls of the chapel:

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