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Photo of Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

St Lawrence and the Gospels

Detail of mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, dating from around 430 AD. It depicts a saint holding a cross and a book with Hebrew text on it, hurrying towards an iron grate that is being licked by flames. On the left is an open cabinet containing the Four Gospels of the New Testament. The most natural and likely interpretation of the man is that it is St. Lawrence, who was a Roman deacon (thus the processional cross and Book of Psalms) and was martyred on a hot iron grill. The Four Gospels would therefore symbolize the faith for which Lawrence willingly gave his life. But other theories advanced by scholars include: a saint hastening to throw heretical books into the flames; the angel announcing the last judgment; or Christ holding the Book of Life at the last judgment.

Photo © David Joyal.

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