This painting by Jose Belliure y Gil is massive and photos on the Web just don’t do it justice. It depicts St. Telemachus, the last martyr of the Coliseum. Telemachus was a hermit who was moved to leave his hermitage and go to Rome. He followed the crowds into the arena and was horrified to see the gladiatorial games and the old man leapt in the Coliseum floor to beg the gladiators not to kill. He was put to death for interrupting the games but something incredible happened. This poor hermit’s death became the talk of Rome and people were shamed. The emperor’s heart was so touched that he ended combat to the death as entertainment once and for all.
The painting shows the vision that St. Telemachus was strengthened by in the last moments of his earthly life. He sees a huge crowd of martyrs, and virgins, nuns, monks, and priests. He sees that the seeds of his martyrdom will bear much fruit. The Church militant and triumphant are joined for one moment before Telemachus’s and the viewer’s eyes. It’s a comfort.