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Don’t look

12 February 2016


Tommaso Massacio (1401-28), Trinity (1428, fresco, Santa Maria Novella, Florence)

Tommaso Massacio (1401-28), Trinity (1428, fresco, Santa Maria Novella, Florence)

Don’t look: pray. You can stare, but you will not gain any control over this Trinity. None of these figures is interested in being seen. It is true that Mary wants you to see her son, but she does more than point him out: her hand weighs the enormity of his sacrifice. His blood spills down the cross, runs out on to the altar that once stood below. Further beneath — that skeleton, and a text: “What I am you will also be.” The two kneeling donors have it right. You do not take possession of this picture. You are here to be possessed.

Here, in a dizzying vault, is God in Trinity. Here is God in constant loving purpose, shedding the blood of the cross. God rescues, redeems, and defeats the eye. “We do not look for things that can be seen but for things that cannot be seen” (2 Corinthians 4.18).


We do not see God; we believe.


The Very Revd Dr David Hoyle is the Dean of Bristol

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