Collection: Penitent St. Peter

ARTIST: Museum Religious Art Classics


Artist: Jusepe de Ribera – c. 1628 – 1632

The Saint Peter portrayed here gazes towards the heavens, his left hand in a position of gentle supplication, the right pointing to his heart, following the liturgical direction for a penitent to strike his breast during the Confession.

This episode takes place when Peter, alone and anticipating his death, begs forgiveness for his sins, of which the most egregious was his threefold betrayal of Jesus, ‘before the cock crows’. The expressive face, the eyes filled with tears, captures the immediacy of the moment when Christ’s successor, his Vicar on Earth, conscious of his own impending death, remembers the moment when he deserted his Lord, denying that he was one of the disciples.

It is not the young man in his late twenties whom Christ had recently designated to be ‘the Rock upon which I will build my Church’, and who had failed in his promise to lay down his life for Jesus, but the old man, soon to die, filled with remorse and a sense of his own unworthiness. For the devout, this deeply inspirational work provides a certitude that forgiveness, and therefore salvation, would be open to even the worst sinners, if their repentance was sincere.

His feast day is June 29.