The Crucifixion of St. Peter

Oil on canvas
Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo

As usual, Caravaggio departs from traditional iconography to emphasize the gritty realness of the events narrated in Christian story. The sheer physical effort of hauling up a cross with a man on it is felt in the rope cutting into the back of the executioner in the rear, the contrast between the taut muscles of the man in red and the old flesh on St. Peter's legs, and at the bottom the array of quotidian details -- the dirty feet, the spilled coins, the spade, the rumpled cloak.

Most of all, Caravaggio urges the viewer to contemplate St. Peter's face. He still has the square beard of the traditional iconography, still the balding pate, but the horror in his eyes as he contemplates the nail is unprecedented.

Read more about images of St. Peter.

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