The Holy Trinity

The Sunday following Pentecost is celebrated by the Church as the Trinity Sunday, in honour of the Holy Trinity. In the Roman Catholic Church, it is officially known as the ‘Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity’.

During the first thousand years of Christianity, there was no special feast of the Holy Trinity. The feast of the Holy Trinity was 1st introduced in the 9th century. This feast was inserted in the Calendar of the Church in the 14th century.

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is the most profound and central mystery of the Christian faith. The Holy Trinity is the Christian doctrine that God, although one, has from all time existed in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As far as the depiction in art is concerned, the Holy Trinity has been depicted in various forms. In the Middle Ages, three new ways of depicting the Holy Trinity emerged in the West. They are: (i) The Three Identical Men, (ii) The Throne of Mercy, and, (iii) The Son Sitting at the Right Hand of the Father. Besides these three, various abstract symbols have also been used to depict the Holy Trinity.

This high-relief depiction of the Holy Trinity on marble is from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa and belongs to the early 17th century. The Holy Trinity is depicted amid dense clouds, with the symbols of the Passion and angels with Mannerist features, in a style less rigorous than that used in Portuguese religious painting from the 14th and 15th centuries, which reached India during the following century.

Three figures are shown – the Father, an old man; the already crucified Son; and the Dove of the Holy Spirit. The Father, wearing a closed crown rather than being enthroned while adopting the maternal pose of a Pietá, the positioning and richness of the drapery and several other details of this marble-relief give it an Italian look. An orb – symbol of sovereignty – has been included in this work of art and supports the Son’s feet. The short loincloth with a knot in the front indicates that this is an European piece, given that the finely worked details usually found in images from India Christianized by Portuguese missionaries are absent. The third person in the Holy Trinity, the Dove, looks more like an eagle with outspread wings perching on the shoulder of God the Father. The Holy Trinity is shown surrounded by angels, some of them are holding the various attributes associated with the Passion of Christ in their hands.