IMAGINING THE UNIMAGINABLE: The Trinity as the Throne of Mercy in ecclesiastical art

‘Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man and then I will show you a man that can comprehend God’ – John Wesley

At the core of the Catholic faith is the belief in one God and three persons. The mystery of the Trinity has sparked fascination and debate over ages. Artists too have attempted to express this mystic marvel in novel ways since centuries. One such depiction is that of the ‘Throne of Mercy’ which was popular in the West during the Middle Ages. The iconography of the theme includes the crucified Christ at the center held by the majestic seated profile of God the Father. A radiant dove hovers above, symbolizing the Holy Spirit.

An embroidered representation of this theme is found on the French styled chasuble displayed currently at the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum. Executed gracefully in petit point, this chasuble is a testimony to the exceptional meticulous skill of embroidery practiced by artisans and patronized by the Church. Gothic arches bedecked with floral spandrels and inlaid with pineapples augment its elegance. A testimony to European art, the pineapple signifies regeneration and eternal life.

The front side of the chasuble is guitar shaped while the reverse is rectangular in form. The obverse orphery band is segmented into three parts distinguished by the words ‘Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus’ which can be translated as ‘Holy Holy Holy’. Within the central reserve, an angel, footed onto billows of clouds, holds a plaque with the insignia IHS, signifying the name of Christ. 

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