Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Habakkuk and the Angel

Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

In Daniel 14 (in the Vulgate) the prophet Habakkuk has prepared a bowl of stew for reapers in the field, but an angel tells him he must take it to Daniel in Babylon. The angel takes Habakkuk by the hair, flies him to Babylon, and sets him atop the lions' den into which Daniel has been locked for six days.

Two aspects of Bernini's sculpture point the viewer toward a Eucharistic interpretation of the food to be brought to Daniel. The first is that the bowl of stew has been reimagined as a basket, as if for bread. The second is the peculiar conformation of the angel's fingers: one would expect him to grasp Habakkuk's hair with his whole hand, but instead he reaches toward the prophet with only his thumb and forefinger, which are moreover held together in the manner prescribed for priests when holding the consecrated host.

The same identification of Daniel's food with the Eucharist is suggested in the Dogmatic Sarcophagus, where instead of Habakkuk bringing stew we see a boy bringing Daniel a basket of loaves, each marked with a cross just like those in the sarcophagus's image of Christ's multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

Read more about images of Habakkuk and of Daniel.

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