Gregorio Lazzarini
St. Paul Taken to Heaven

Church of San Stae, Venice

In II Corinthians Paul writes of having been "caught up to the third heaven."1 This is most likely the subject of Lazzarini's canvas. If the subject were the martyrdom at the end of Paul's life, we would expect the traditional iconography of that subject: an executioner with a sword, an angel arriving with a victor's garland, etc. (example).

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

1 II Corinthians 12:1-4. In this passage Paul does not say explicitly that he himself was the "man in Christ" who was "caught up to third heaven," but it has been generally accepted that he was. See the Glossa Ordinaria, VI, 446 and the footnote to the passage in the New American Bible. That footnote also explains that some literature current in Paul's time posited a three-fold Heaven, God's abode being the "third Heaven."