These famous renditions of the saint's life show us what it takes to live our best life.
In 1599, a young artist named Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio signed a contract to decorate the burial chapel of a rich cardinal. The chapel was to be dedicated to St. Matthew, the cardinal’s name saint. The painting on the left of the altar was to show the calling of St. Matthew by Jesus to cease tax collecting and become a disciple. The painting on the right was to show his martyrdom. The painting in the middle, directly above the high altar, was to depict the inspiration of St. Matthew as he was hard at work on writing his Gospel.
Caravaggio himself was a highly conflicted man. He was a magnificent painter who pushed the boundaries of greatness in art, and his work is full of dramatic lighting and highly literate, thoughtful compositions. But in his actual life Caravaggio knew trouble. He quarreled with everyone around him, lived fast and loose, and is even suspected of having committed murder. Without a paintbrush in his hand, he never quite got it together, but as an artist he is unparalleled both for his technique and the depth of his insight.
The three paintings of St. Matthew were completed and now decorate the Contarelli Chapel in Rome. When viewed one after another, they tell a powerful story about the cost of achieving greatness …