|Saint Paul the Apostle -
Died ca. 64
In the west St. Paul and St. Peter are considered the two most important apostles, and their images are innumerable. St. Paul's career is the subject of much of the Acts of the Apostles, and he himself provides further details in his epistles. Apocryphal sources soon added more narratives, many of which end up in the Golden Legend.
Since at least the fourth century St. Paul has been portrayed with a long, pointed beard and a receding hairline. See the figure to the left of the seated Christ in the 4th century image at left and this example from the 13th century. I have seen only one image in which he has a full head of hair.
His attributes are the sword he was killed with and a closed book representing the epistles that he wrote (example). Sometimes instead of a book we will see St. Paul holding a letter (example) or a whole sheaf of letters (example) representing the epistles. Artists usually ignore the tradition that St. Paul was short of stature (exception).
Among narrative paintings, favorite topics are St. Paul's conversion (example) and execution (example). Many other narrative episodes derive not from scripture but from the hagiographies listed below.
Feast day: June 29
At left, detail from a fourth century painting in the catacomb of SS. Marcellinus and Peter.
Fifth century door panel
15th century door panel
Mexican santos from Huitzo and Etla, Oaxaca
Paintings of the Conversion by Abbate, Caravaggio, Escalante
Statue in the Lateran Basilica, Rome
Statue at St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome
In Saraceni's Paradise
Also see: The Apostles as a Group
Golden Legend #28, Conversion of St. Paul: html or pdf
Golden Legend #90, Life of St. Paul: html or pdf
The Story of Perpetua (cached)
The Acts of Paul and Thecla (cached)
The Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (cached)
The Acts of Barnabas (cached)