(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)

Apostle St Paul

Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo

Although not one of the original twelve whom Christ chose to be his closest followers, Paul became the 'Apostles of the Gentiles' following his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, founding Christian communities in many places, including Crete. He appears in all of El Greco's Apostolados, in place of St Matthias, the Apostle chosen after Christ's ascension to replace Judas.

In this painting El Greco shows St Paul with a sword, the instrument of his martyrdom, and a letter inscribed in cursive Greek "To Titus, ordained first bishop of the church of the Cretans'.

St Paul appears a great number of times in El Greco's oeuvre and he is depicted with remarkable consistency. The saint is always shown slightly balding, with dark hair and beard, wearing a red mantle thrown over a blue or green tunic.

An earlier version of this composition from about 1604 is in the City Art Museum, St Louis.