Catechesis and Naive Sacred Art: St. Peter – A Lesson Plan

Image painted by Deacon Paul O. Iacono Copyright © 2021-2022

One of my goals in painting the above image of St. Peter was to provide a catechist/observer with seven focus ideas within one image. This sacred image also presents some of the life events of the “Rock” on which Jesus Christ built His Church. I have painted this image with the approach of the Naive/Folk Art genre or “school.” I will discuss the Naive/Folk art approach in my next post. Below are my seven fundamental ideas that can be used as a lesson plan(s) for the above image:

  1. The image is based on Christ’s words and Peter’s actions within the New Testament (have the students look up the verses found within the Gospels and Epistles).
  2. The image itself presents the presence of Peter who is suffering (his posture, body movement, expression, tears, and the extension of his hand). He is requesting Christ’s forgiveness.
  3. Christ is identified by the label IC XC (the Greek abbreviation for the name Jesus Christ). Christ is extending His hand in forgiveness and to raise Peter’s spirit.
  4. The rooster in the bottom left corner is harkening back to its crowing after Peter denies Jesus (Scripturally predicted by Christ). The rooster is also looking at the viewer, reminding us of our personal sins.
  5. Papal authority. Peter is the first pope. He is the first bishop of Rome, the spiritual leader of the Church, and is symbolized by the two keys that are given to him, echoing Christ’s words of “you are Peter (Petros) and on this rock/stone (Petra) I will build my Church.” The keys are painted in gold and silver. Gold represents spiritual authority in union with the Church’s bishops. The silver key represents the papal influence within the world for issues that would affect the good of the Church and people as a whole. The keys are united by a red anchor (symbol of hope and steadfastness – found in the catacombs and the Epistle to the Hebrews). The sufferings of the clergy and laity are built upon the sufferings of Christ and the ministry/martyrdom of the first Apostles (12 squares under the keys; the green square represents St. John who was not martyred). The brown border encapsulating St. Peter reminds us of the cross on which he was martyred as well as the Cross of Christ.
  6. Diagonal lines could be visually drawn through Peter from the upper left corner of the books of the Holy Scriptures to the lower right representing the teaching authority of the pope (Peter’s successors); as well as the upper right of Christ’s hand to the rooster on the lower left reminding us of Peter’s denial and Christ’s forgiveness.
  7. This denial by Peter is not the denial of Judas Iscariot who was also an Apostle. Throughout the Catholic Church’s history we have had both clergy and lay people deny Christ through their words and actions. It all began with the Apostles; however the difference between Peter and Judas is that Peter despaired, pleaded for forgiveness, and was picked up through Christ’s forgiveness. Judas despaired, did not plead for forgiveness, and threw himself down on the end of a rope.

If you find this subject interesting I recommend you read my post on Catechesis and Catholic Art published on June 26, 2021. Thanks.

Copyright © 2011- 2022 by Deacon Paul O. Iacono – All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint essays and/or my paintings must be obtained from me by, using the comment box and making a comment/request on the post. I will respond to you through answering in the comment box. Students, and those interested, may quote small sections of my essays as long as the proper credit and notation are given. Thank you.

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