West Façade of Assisi Cathedral: Central Tympanum, Christ Regnant with the Madonna and St. Rufinus

12th century
Cathedral of St. Rufinus, Assisi, Italy

The composition has a number of unusual features: the picturing of moon and stars rather than sun and moon, Christ's directing the viewer's attention to Mary rather than the other way around, and the breast. Possibly Christ's gesture is meant to emphasize his dual nature as both God and man, ruling the universe from all time yet born of a woman and nursed at her breast.

Rufinus is the city's patron saint. He is remembered as Assisi's first bishop, martyred in the 3rd century, but little else is known. In an 11th century hymn, St. Peter Damian relies on some earlier account in which Rufinus was first stoned, then put into a burning oven, and finally cast into "the waves" with a stone hanging from his neck (Acta Sanctorum, July vol. 7, 154). None of these perils has been transformed into an attribute in the portrait above; the saint is simply dressed as a bishop in chasuble and cope, without a mitre or crozier.

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