Adoration of the Magi

7:00 AM

Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, 1423
By LIBBY ROHR

I stand in the dim light of the church, watching the dancing glow of candles flicker on the altarpiece in front of me as I pray. Reds, blues, and golds burst into life and seem to move with the shifting light. To me it seems glorious and decadent, a symbol of the majesty of the Lord. My knees are growing weary pressed against the hard ground of the Santa Trinità church. Outside the sun is beginning to set, and I can hear the final bustles of the day slowly winding to a halt in the streets before the people of the night emerge. Florence is moving outside as fast as it ever has before but here it is silent. Here I am at peace with God. 

In my church, I have stared at the altarpiece for hours upon hours in the couple of years since it has been here accompanying the sermons of our priest. He speaks with vigor and devotion and his stories come to life on the walls of this church, but none so like the scene of adoration at the altar. So detailed in vibrant color, I can never manage to tear my eyes from its glory. I look at the waves of those so devoted to a child, hardly born, the son of my God. They exalt and adore Christ, demonstrating the dedication I have learned to live by. This image of my Lord accompanies and invigorates my prayer. As I surrender to God further and further, Jesus begins breathes stronger and stronger in front of me.

The silence is at once broken as the doors in the back were thrown open into the church and with the rush of voices, reeking of self-importance, echoed in the structure. I took a deep breath and glanced back over my shoulder. Palla Strozzi, the unbelievably wealthy patron of the church, wearing rich colored garments and waving his arms in demonstration. He wore a proud, boastful expression under his well-groomed beard. He seemed to be addressing the man to his right who appeared equally important in manor and dress. The man to his left was much younger, with curly hair, holding himself proudly stood back a bit from the other two. Strozzi seemed to be showing him off.

I caught a portion of their conversation as he practically shouted into the otherwise quiet church, "You will see how magnificent it is. Young Gentile has a real talent and as you know, only the best for me!"

I watch the trio make their way farther into the nave leaving me unnoticed as they approached the altarpiece. Strozzi asks him to explain his work to the other gentleman, and Gentile swiftly agrees sweeping up towards his work. 

He begins to speak once they are close with passion and I understand he must be the artist, "All around the central work I've included images telling the story surrounding the birth of Christ, all biblically accurate. At these circles at the top here we see the Annunciation in the phase of acceptance, to best express the love of Christ. The middle image at the top is Christ himself at adulthood. The central image shows the adoration of Christ by the three Magi from the east. For the I chose to show lines of people to teach reverence and the vibrant gold to communicate the glory and wealth of God. To emphasize the virgin, she is the only one wearing her color of blue and she holds her hand over her chest to show her reverence. The charity of the wise men comes through the red in their robes. Many wear black as well to symbolize their humility in the presence of the Christ child. Jesus himself wears the white of purity with his hand outstretched in a gesture of blessing. The contrast invigorates even the simplest the onlooker to bask in a passion for the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, it's one of my greatest works."

Although I do not quite understand the conclusions he comes to for his art, I like what he has to say. I enjoy understanding the deliberation. The two older men go back and forth in pride and praise for the work speaking mostly of its value and what another such work would cost. Having finished my prayer, I stand to exit, tired of their bantering. I make my way, still unnoticed, back down the aisle of the chapel. As I reach the door, I steal a glance back and catch a glimpse of the altarpiece between the forms of the rich men. I ignore them to focus on the small representation of my beloved Christ in front of me before emerging back onto the streets of Florence.

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