PICTURES OF THE BIBLE  © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008







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The Pentecost; first part of 12th century; miniature from the Psalter of St Albans; Historic Collections, Aberdeen University, Scotland









The apostles are together with Mary; they are looking up and holding out their hands upwards and rays of light fall towards each of them. God is present under the form of a wheel of fire and under that of the dove of the Holy Ghost.

The event takes place in a closed space, a big room or a space simply delimited by the painter. One always gets the impression of a squeezed group.

God’s manifestation is particularly difficult to render: noise, fire, blast, threatening sky crowded with angels… Issuing from God, rays fall towards each figure or form a small flame above each one’s head. As this cannot be done in sculpture, everybody’s eyes are simply focused on God’s hand.

The apostles are normally twelve, for Judas has been replaced by Matthias but they are seven in some works and sometimes even fewer. Mary’s presence is not mentioned in the text but she almost always represented and often in the centre or in a place of honour. She is actually the picture of the Church, which was born on that day; sometimes other women are present.

Peter has no particular place in spite of the importance given to him by the narrative but the scene is not that of his speech though the apostles sometimes make speech gestures to indicate they can speak many languages.





The Pentecost; first part of 12th century; miniature from the Psalter of St Albans; Historic Collections, Aberdeen University, Scotland



The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, verses 1 to 33.


And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

And there appeared to them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because every one heard them speak in his own language.

And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, Behold, are not all these who speak Galilaeans?

And how hear we … them speak in our tongues ... (The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-8)

Peter then began to speak to announce the death and resurrection of Jesus; then he invited his listeners to be baptized.




Only the strength given by God can explain that the apostles, who had been hiding since the crucifixion of Jesus, dared to appear in public and proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ.

From that day on, they became missionaries. So this scene relates the birth of the Church. Here, men “of every nation under heaven” hear and understand the apostles; this is the reverse of what happened in the tower of Babel when men could no longer communicate because of the multiplicity of languages.








The Pentecost; first part of 12th century; miniature from the Psalter of St Albans; Historic Collections, Aberdeen University, Scotland



Several quite different representations:

from the apostles alone to the crowd with Peter and Mary in the centre,

from simple rays of light to the manifestation of God in three persons.



The Pentecost; Anton MENGS; 1765; oil on canvas; The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum



The Pentecost; GIOTTO di Bondone; 1320-1325; egg tempera on poplar; National Gallery, London.

Web Gallery of Art


The Virgin becomes the central figure, the flames disappear, the dove of the Holy Ghost replaces them


The Pentecost; Hans MULTSCHER; 1437; panel; Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Web Gallery of Art



The Pentecost; Miniature on vellum from a Book of Hours; manuscript MMW 10 E 3; Museum Meermanno Westreenianum, The Hague



Mary is still in the centre but the crowd invades the scene and the light floods the house.


The Pentecost; Jean RESTOUT; 1732 ; oil on canvas; Musée du Louvre, Paris

Web Gallery of Art



The Descent of the Holy Ghost; TITIAN; c. 1545; oil on canvas; Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy

 Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists


The same verticality in stone and on canvas; the Holy Ghost draws men up to heaven.


image/Silos.jpg, 76,4K

The Pentecost; 11th century; bas-relief; San Domingo de Silos, Spain.




The Pentecost; El GRECO; 1596-1600; oil on canvas; Museo del Prado, Madrid

Web Gallery of Art





The Pentecost is a Jewish and Christian Feast

Pentecost means “fifty” in Greek, for the feast takes place fifty days after Easter.

Jews celebrate God’s gift of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, that is to say the deliverance of the spirit. They call it the Feast of the Weeks for it takes place 7 weeks after the Passover; it used to be called the feast of the “first fruit” for it coincided with the end of the harvest.

For Christians, it is the celebration of the new alliance achieved by Jesus Christ and it was on the day of the Jewish Pentecost in 30 AD that Jesus’ first disciples came out in full daylight; it was then the birth of the Church.


The Pentecost Church is a Christian church founded on prophetism, confused with the gift of languages as it is described in the narrative of the Pentecost.

This movement was born from American Protestantism at the beginning of the 20th century; it still exists in America under the form of assemblies of God and it has also gained European Catholicism under the form of so-called “charismatic” movements. The word "charismatic" means that the gifts of the Holy Ghost are recognised in them.


The feast of Pentecost is a movable feast which always falls on a Sunday (50 days after Easter).

It used to last at least three days and the Monday took on a carnivalesque dimension for it often corresponded to the end of May.

The month of May, the month of the Roman Goddess Maia, has always been a period during which the renewal of vegetation is celebrated by the making of bunches of flowers and the raising of trees. There is still the bunch of lilies of the valley on May 1st in France but it has taken another meaning. In the south of France, they have kept the tree that is raised to honour a person, generally a leading citizen.





BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008