The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Albrecht Dürer, one of the greatest artists of the Northern Renaissance, was also a mathematician, theorist, engraver and printmaker. In 1511he created this altarpiece for the chapel of an almshouse for poor artists in Nuremberg known as the Twelve Brothers’ House. It is also called the Landauer Altarpiece after the patron of the poorhouse. Made of a single panel, the altarpiece was meant to be displayed in the elaborate wooden frame also designed by Dürer, though they are no longer united.
The painting’s complex iconography depicts the living crucified Christ at the center with God the Father wearing a kingly crown, and the radiant dove of the Holy Spirit above him. Angelic and saintly figures fill out the upper half and earthly figures populate the space below. At the very bottom, a landscape with a lake stretches into the distance, with the lone figure of the artist himself at the far right, standing next to a panel that reads, “Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg made this 1511 years after the Virgin.”
The depiction of God the father supporting the cross of Christ with the Holy Spirit nearby is known as the Mercy Seat image, or Gnadenstuhl, that celebrates the triune nature of the godhead and glorifies the Eucharistic act of God sacrificing the Son. This makes it an appropriate image for an altar, where the body of the Son is being continually offered up. We see in this image the tender love of the Father as he offers up the body of the Son for our salvation, with the Holy Spirit as the agent of the transubstantiation of the host into the true body of Christ.
As we contemplate the mystery of the Holy Trinity this Sunday, we might include this prayer:
Glory be to the Father,
Who by His almighty power and love created me,
making me in the image and likeness of God.
Glory be to the Son,
Who by His Precious Blood delivered me from hell,
and opened for me the gates of heaven.
Glory be to the Holy Spirit,
Who has sanctified me in the sacrament of Baptism,
and continues to sanctify me
by the graces I receive daily from His bounty.
Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity,
now and forever.