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

Apostle St Matthew

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

Apostle and traditionally the author of the first gospel. He was a taxgatherer of Capernaum who, as he sat at the custom-house, was called by Christ to follow him. As one of the evangelists his attribute is a winged person resembling an angel, one of the 'apocalyptic beasts'. It may be seen dictating as Matthew writes. He has book, pen and inkhorn, the attributes of the writer. As an apostle he holds a purse, a reminder of his previous occupation. According to legend he was martyred by beheading and may therefore have an axe or halberd. Among Matthew's several inscriptions are 'Sanctam ecclesiam catholicam; sanctorum communionem' - 'The Holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints', from the Apostles' Creed; 'Primum querite regnum dei' - 'Set your mind on God's kingdom before everything else' (Matt. 6:33); 'Liber generationis Jesu Christi' - 'A table of the descent of Jesus Christ' (Matt. 1:1).

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 8 minutes):
Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Matthew Passion BWV 244 (excerpts)