The Martyrs' Window Character Biographies

St Paul

 

St. Paul - modelled on Rossetti's brother William

William Rossetti

The likeness between the faces of William Rossetti and St Paul is more striking here than in the similarity with the face of St Peter. Click the images of St Paul for greater detail.

A Hellenistic Jew, St Paul is known worldwide as one of the earliest Christian missionaries, along with Saint Peter and James the Just.

Childhood
Paul was born in Tarsus, in 10 AD, and was originally named Saul. Raised as a pharisaical Jew, he, in his initial years, even persecuted Christians, taking part in the stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Being momentarily blinded by the vision of the image of resurrected Jesus, on the road to Damascus, led Saul to convert. He was baptized as Paul and went to Arabia for three years, indulging in prayers and reflection.

Coming back to Damascus, Paul again resumed his journey, but this time, the destination was Jerusalem. After 14 years, he again went to Jerusalem. Though the apostles were suspicious of him, St. Barnabas perceived his sincerity and brought him back to Antioch. During a famine, which struck Judea, Paul and Barnabas journeyed to Jerusalem, to deliver financial support from the Antioch community. With this, they made Antioch an alternative centre for Christians and a major Christian centre for Paul's evangelizing.

Council of Jerusalem & Incident at Antioch
Around 49-50 AD, an important meeting took place between Paul and the Jerusalem church. The focus of this meeting was to decide whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. It was at this meeting that Peter, James, and John accepted Paul's mission to the Gentiles. Though both Paul and Peter had made an agreement at the Council of Jerusalem, the latter's was reluctant to share a meal with Gentile Christians in Antioch and was publicly confronted by Paul. This is referred to as the 'Incident at Antioch'.

Resumed Mission
In 50-52 AD, Paul spent 18 months in Corinth, with Silas and Timothy. Thereafter, he headed towards Ephesus, an important centre for early Christianity since the 50s. The next 2 years of Paul's life were spent in Ephesus, working with the congregation and organizing missionary activity into hinterlands. However, he was forced to leave on account of several disturbances and imprisonment. Paul's next destination was Macedonia, where he went before going to Corinth. After residing in Corinth for three months, he made a final visit to Jerusalem.

Arrest & Death
About A.D. 59, having visited Jerusalem for the fifth time since his conversion, the people there assailed him, and would have killed him, but an officer took him into custody and sent him to the Roman Governor Felix, at Caesarea, where he was detained a prisoner for two years.

Having finally appealed to the Roman Emperor, according to the privilege of a Roman citizen, he was sent to Rome. On the voyage he was shipwrecked at Melita (probably Malta), in the spring of 61.

At Rome, he was treated with respect, andallowed to dwell "for two whole years in his own hired house." Whether he ever left the city or not cannot be positively demonstrated, but it is possible that he gained his liberty about A.D. 64, and that he made journeys both to the East and to the West, revisiting Asia Minor, and carrying out his long-cherished wish of preaching the gospel in Spain, then thought to be the western limit of the world.

Meanwhile, the great and mysterious burning of Rome occurred, generally attributed to Nero. The latter threw the blame on the Christians who were, in consequence, subjected to a severe persecution. Among the victims may have been Paul who, according to traditions, suffered death in A.D. 67.