RIO OF ALL SAINTS: SAINT PETER AND SAINT PAUL

A glass mosaic depicts the Saint Peter´s Basilica, in Vatican, Rome. Cesar Formenti. Capuchinhos Church, Tijuca.

On June 29th the world Christian community celebrates the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Saint Peter, also called the Prince of the Apostles, was born in Galilee and was baptized Simon, having his name changed by Jesus himself, thus stating the choice of Peter as the rock on which to build His Church. Peter is considered to be the first Catholic Pope. He died around 64 AD, after a long pontificate. In Christian Iconography he has been represented in a variety of forms. He is depicted, mainly, as and old and bearded man, having one or more keys in his hands – since he was given the keys of Heaven by Christ. He may also have in his side a boat and some fishing gear, like a net – since he was a fisherman by profession; with a fish in his hands – a symbolic analogy to the fisher of men that he was; a cock over a column – a reference to the three times he denied Christ before the dawn; a book, since he was an Apostle; with the three-branched cross or dressed as a Pope – since he was the founder of the Catholic Church; or even along with an upside down cross, a reference to the manner he was crucified in Rome under Nero´s Empire.

Saint Paul is called the Apostle to the Gentiles because, although never taking part of the twelve apostles group, his writings had great importance in the diffusion of young Christianism. He was born Saul in Tarsus, in ancient Cilicia (part of today´s Turkey), and had his named changed to Paul after his conversion to Christianism. Being captured in Rome, he received the sentence of decapitation, a soft sentence to the patterns of that time, since he was a roman citizen. He is depicted, iconographically, as a robust man – although he was feeble -, bearded and bearing a sword – an allusion to his martyrdom – and a book, like the apostles. Sometimes he carries a basket, alluding to one of his spectacular prison escapes.

Unfortunately, Rio de Janeiro has lost all its colonial churches dedicated to these two saints. The opening of the Presidente Vargas Avenue was responsible, in 1944 – despite the efforts of SPHAN[1] -, for the criminal fall of the São Pedro dos Clérigos Church, pictured here and built in the 1700s, with its plan based on circumference arcs, unique in town and absolutely original among Brazilian baroque churches.

The city has more recently built other temples in devotion to Saint Peter. Among them, we highlight the Saint Peter Apostle Church (Igreja de São Pedro Apóstolo), in 57 Cardoso Marinho Street, in Santo Cristo, now in ruins and perhaps lost for good. Another parish, Saint Peter Apostle, has two temples at General Clarindo Street, in the neighbourhood of Engenho de Dentro. The older one, finished in 1940 and preserved by the City Hall, has (or had) stained glass windows produced by Casa Conrado from drawings by the painter Carlos Oswald. Unfortunately, as many other buildings in town, it is threatened to collapse. The other temple, at number 632, dates back from the 1960s.

Among the temples in good conditions, we list that of the Venerable Brotherhood of Saint Peter Prince of Apostles (Venerável Irmandade do Príncipe dos Apóstolos São Pedro), at Paulo de Frontin Avenue, in Rio Comprido. A Google search reveals the temple of the Parish Saint Peter Apostle (Paróquia Apóstolo São Pedro), at Antonio Saraiva Street, in Cavalcanti.

As for Saint Paul, we highlight the Parish Saint Paul Apostle (Paróquia São Paulo Apóstolo), at Barão de Ipanema Street, in Copacabana, and the Anglican Church of Saint Paul (Igreja Anglicana de São Paulo), at Paschoal Carlos Magno Street, in Santa Teresa.

Our collection of references to these two martyrs – still a little humble – brings some images below.

Saint Peter. Our Lady of Glory Church, Largo do Machado.

The façade of Our Lady of Glory Church (Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Glória), in Largo do Machado, displays sculptures of both saints. Positioned at the vertices of the pediment, we wonder if they were produced by the same artist who executed the tympanum relief, the Spanish sculptor Francisco Mutido. Saint Paul has a book in his left hand and bears a sword on the ground. Saint Peter, in his turn, has the right arm up and brings a book and two symmetrically positioned keys in his left hand.

Saint Paul. Our Lady of Glory Church, Largo do Machado.

The two stained glass windows of the folding screen in Our Lady of Candelaria Church (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelária), in Downtown Rio, produced in Munich by the stained glass artist Franz Xaver Zettler, represent Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Peter´s stained glass, with two keys and a book, can be seen below left. Signed FX ZETTLER – MUNICH.

Saint Peter. Candelária Church, Downtown Rio.

One of the lateral altars of Capuchinhos Church (Igreja dos Capuchinhos), at 266 Haddock Lobo Street, in Tijuca, carries a beautiful artwork depicting the Saint Peter´s Basilica, in Vatican, where the saint is believed to rest buried, according to the catholic tradition. It is a glass mosaic produced by Italian-brazilian artist Cesar Formenti (as seen in the beginning of this post).

A final reference to Saint Peter found in our files rests on a relief in the National Museum of Fine Arts, designed by English artist Edward Caldwell Spruce. It depicts the Bernini´s Collonade at Saint Peter´s Square, in Vatican, in front of Saint Peter´s Basilica.

National Museum of Fine Arts. 199 Rio Branco Avenue. The façade facing Mexico Street brings four huge reliefs by English sculptor Spruce. Among them, this one depicts on the background scene the Saint Peter´s Square colonnade, in Vatican, designed by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

[1] Founded in 1937 as Serviço do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, today Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN).

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