Mattia Preti: The Martyrdom of Saint Paul (1656–1659)

(Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA)

A painting by the Italian artist Mattia Preti (1613-1699). Saint Paul the apostle is one of the most important figures in the early Christian history. Orginally Paul (or Saul of Tarsus as he was known before his conversion) wasn't a member of the original 12 apostles but a Roman citizen who dedicated to persecuting the early Christian. During a trip from Jerusalem to Damascus, the the resurrected Christ appeared to him in a great light and called to him. Paul was blinded for three days but was baptized and dedicated himself to spread the Holy word of God. Paul traveled through various countries but soon came into conflict with the original apostles who called for a more stricter form of Christianity according to the Jewish Laws (including circumcision). The New Testament does not say when or how Paul died but various other books claim that Paul was beheaded after the Great Fire of Rome in July A.D. 64. According to the legend Paul was beheaded at Aquae Salviae in Italy and that after he was decapitated, his severed head rebounded three times, giving rise to a source of water each time that it touched the ground - the church "Saint Paul at the Three Fountains" stands at this spot.
The Papal Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls in Rome stands above the tomb of the saint. Preti shows the moment of the execution of the saint in a Caravaggio-style painting. Painting from 1656-1659.