Statues of the Twelve Apostles on the facade of St Peter’s Basilica,
Facade designed by Carlo Maderno (1556-1629),
Sculpted in 1612-1613
© Christian Art Today

Statues of the Twelve Apostles on the facade of St Peter’s Basilica,
Facade designed by Carlo Maderno (1556-1629),
Sculpted in 1612-1613
© Christian Art Today

Gospel of 24 January 2020

Jesus appointed the Twelve Apostles

Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils. And so he appointed the Twelve: Simon to whom he gave the name Peter, James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges or ‘Sons of Thunder’; then Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the man who was to betray him.

Reflection on the Twelve Apostles on the facade of St Peter’s Basilica

We may think that we have chosen Jesus, but in fact He chose us first! Just like with the twelve apostles. He chose them, as per today’s reading… For today’s art illustration, there was no need for me to look much further than the facade of St Peter’s Basilica here in Rome. The statues, all sculpted in 1612-1613,  show Jesus with the Twelve Apostles, or to be precise eleven apostles and St. John the Baptist. The missing apostle is St. Peter, because he was given (together with St. Paul) a separate statue in St Peter’s square in front of this very facade.

To make it easier, I have marked all the Apostles on the photograph and herewith a small synopsis of who they were (from left to right):

  • St. Thaddeus: Jude, also known as Judas Thaddaeus. He is patron saint of ‘lost causes’.
  • St. Matthew: was a tax collector and wrote one of the four gospels
  • St. Philip: preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia. He is patron saint of hatters.
  • St. Thomas: often referred to as ‘Doubting Thomas’ because he doubted the resurrection but then followed later by his confession of faith, ‘My Lord and my God’
  • St. James the Elder: considered the first apostle to be martyred. He is patron saint of Spain.
  • St. John the Baptist: prophet preparing the way for Christ to start his ministry
  • St. Andrew: first called apostle and brother of Saint Peter. Crucified on X-shaped cross
  • St John the Evangelist: Patron saint of writers. Particularly loved by Christ. Often depicted holding a chalice.
  • St. James the Younger: Brother of Saint Jude. Jerusalem's first bishop. Killed by being hurled down from the Temple roof.
  • St. Bartholemew: suffered and died in Armenia. Depicted with knife, the instrument which was used to flay him alive.
  • St. Simon: depicted with saw, since, according to legend, he was martyred by being sawed into pieces
  • St Matthias: followed Jesus from John’s baptism to the Ascension. Attribute is the lance since he was killed by one.

The word apostle means ‘those who are sent’. Today’s reading is where they actually became apostles… from then on they are sent out on ministry…

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