Purgatory in Painting

March 16, 2017

I have read in the Dictionary of Education a very amusing anecdote, which may, nevertheless, be cited of what I have said of All Souls’ Day. Certain canons over 1,000 years ago, having had to repair their Church, added to it a chapel dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory. The Sculptor who was charged with the decorations, represented the poor Souls in the midst of flames; but he was so malicious as to place in the very midst of his figures the portrait of a neighboring Abbot. The likeness was so perfect that no one could mistake it; the Superior himself recognized it. He immediately complained to the canons, who summoned the Sculptor and laughingly besought him to deliver that poor Soul from his Purgatory. The artist excused himself under the pretense that he could not touch his work without spoiling it. The complaint is carried before the Archbishop. The prelate inquires of the Sculptor if the likeness is accidental.

“No, my Lord,” says he, “I did it on purpose.”

“Then you must destroy that figure, for it is an outrage on the original.”

“I shall do no such a thing, my Lord, and your Lordship will not ask me to do it, I am sure, when you hear my reasons. Last year, this Reverend Abbot proved in one of his sermons that those who die without having made satisfaction are detained in the flames of Purgatory till they have paid their debts. Now his Procurator has owed me a hundred crowns these two years past, and I am not yet paid. So that is just the reason why I thought myself authorized to place the Abbot in my Purgatory. I assure you, my Lord, I will leave him there forever, unless your Lordship will have the goodness to see me paid.”

The Prelate and all who were present could not help laughing at this singular justification.

The complainant himself could not object to the demand thus made; he acquitted himself with a good grace, and ordered his Procurator to pay the hundred crowns. The Sculptor, on his side, modified the figure in Purgatory, and represented it ascending to Heaven, like a Soul which has fully satisfied the justice of God.


The Indian advocate., November 01, 1900, Page 153 & 154.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 568


Previous post:

Next post: