In the center
of the painting Saraceni places Saints Cecilia, Peter,
and Paul. For Cecilia, he borrows a traditional
narrative type in which, unmoved by the music at her
nuptials, the saint looks up longingly to the music of
Here we see her ignoring the organ being played beside
her as she gazes up with longing. A literalist might ask
why she would be looking up to Heaven when she is
already there, but it seems the artist is making a point
about that moment during the nuptials. Moments when the
earthly recedes and the saint is in touch with the
divine are what Eliot called "the point of intersection
of the timeless with time" Ė real
Heaven in communion with real earth.1 In such a
moment, one is in Heaven.
one finds Peter and Paul engaged in the discussion
that consumed the first generation of Christians,
the relation of the gospel to the Law as given to
Moses, who stands behind them with his tablets.2 Again, a
literalist could object that in Heaven such
matters would be settled, and disputation absent.
But placing this debate in the very center of
Heaven makes a vital point about the deliberations
by which Truth is revealed to the Church. Such
conversations are not simply human negotiations in
historical time but moments of intersection when
the earthly and heavenly environments are one.
In the composition Paul's sword lies along a line parallel to the tablets behind him and to the staff that St. Christopher holds in the foreground, emphasizing the multifariousness of the way to Heaven, which is also manifested in the teeming variety of the saints portrayed. Along the lower edge, for example, we have four theologians, one soldier, and one freak.3To the right of St. George's banner is the scene from St. Catherine of Alexandria's passion in which she defends the faith to pagan philosophers, who then convert and are martyred. (Compare her hand gesture to this earlier image of her discourse.) Again, it makes no literal sense to have Catherine preaching in Heaven, but the speech and conversion constitute another moment in which human beings find themselves in the divine.