Tag Archives: trinity

Atomic Trinity

Three frames from the first 1/16 second of the Trinity test, July 16, 1945.

Rublev Trinity

“Old Testament Trinity” or “The Hospitality of Abraham”, Andrey Rublev, between 1408-25 (image source: Wikipedia).

This Orthodox Trinity icon by Andrey Rublev is a more accepted and highly praised representation of the Triune God than the Andean Trinity. This icon represents an innovation in that the essential narrative elements from “Hospitality of Abraham” (Genesis 18:1-15) on which it is based have been removed, leaving only three winged manifestations of divinity.

Perhaps most unsettling to the Western eye however is that none of these figures have beards. Most folks in the Western Church are familiar and comfortable with two bearded guys and a bird. Although this arrangement has always seemed compositionally awkward to me — the human figures of God and Christ invariably have more visual weight than that of the dove representing the Holy Spirit. I guess an alternative would be to depict a bird the size of God and Son but that would be weird too.

Andean Trinity

The Trinity, Unknown artist, 18th c., 54 1/2 x 62 1/2 inches.
From The Virgin, Saints, and Angels exhibition catalog, 2006.

According to the Spanish artist Francisco Pacheco, there are a number of ways the Trinity could not be represented in art: not as a man with three heads, not as a man with one head and three faces, and definitely not as three men in the womb of the Virgin.

This seems reasonable until one considers the problem Christian missionaries have faced describing the concept of the Triune God. Clearly, a perfectly reasonable heathen’s understanding of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit might accidentally diverge from accepted doctrine to the “diabolic fiction” described above.

Luckily, Pacheco found it acceptable, even if tacitly, to depict the Trinity as shown in the painting above. This representation was especially convenient for Andean Christians because the Incans had long worshiped Aponinti, Churiinti, and Intiquaoqui, or father and lord Sun, the son Sun, and the brother Son. Not a perfect fit but for a harried missionary bent on stamping out entrenched satanic idolatry you’ve got to make use of all the opportunities that the good Lord provides.

(from Suzanne Stratton-Pruitt’s catalog notes for The Virgin, Saints, and Angels: South American Paintings 1600 – 1825 from the Thoma Collection)

Even closer to home

Ex-voto for the recovery of Pablo Rodrigues, November 5, 1940.

Ex-voto for the recovery of Pablo Rodrigues, November 5, 1940.

Some Christmas ago, perhaps a decade past, my dear wife Liz gave me this retablo (literally: board behind), also called an ex-voto (from a vow). Painted in 1940 to thank the Holy Trinity for the recovery of a man named Pablo, this piece of tin now occupies the section of our hallway just outside my daughter’s door. Continue reading