Altarpiece of the Church Fathers (Pacher)  

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Image:Michael Pacher.jpg
The Devil Presenting St Augustine With The Book Of Vices, panel of Pacher's Kirchenväteraltar ("Fathers of the Church" altarpiece, c. 1483).
This panel is on the outside right (i.e. on the back of the Augustine panel), and would have been only visible to church-goers when the altar was closed, i.e. when no service was being held.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Altarpiece of the Church Fathers[1] (Kirchenväteraltar), created in 1483 for the Neustift Monastery, is a work by Michael Pacher. The significance in this work by Pacher lies in that the boundary between painting and sculpture was no longer clear.

This altarpiece by Pacher is divided into four sections, each section depicting one of the four Great Doctors of the Western Church: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Pope Gregory I. On the very left is the altarpiece of Saint Jerome, who is depicted in his cardinal’s attire. Jerome, who is well known for a story in which he drew a thorn from a lion’s paw, is indeed accompanied by the lion in Pacher’s work. To his right is the panel of Augustine, portrayed with the child from a legend about Augustine. According to this legend, Augustine was walking along a beach one day when he saw a child scooping up the water with a spoon. When Augustine asked the child what he was doing, the child replied by saying that his own activity was as pointless as Augustine’s attempts to understand the concept of the Holy Trinity with his rational mind. To Augustine’s right is Pope Gregory I, depicted with Emperor Trajan, for whom Gregory I is known to have prayed to restore dead Trajan’s soul and baptized his soul in order to deliver him from purgatory. On the very right is the archbishop Ambrose, shown with a baby in a cradle, which probably symbolizes a legend regarding his life: when Ambrose was in his cradle as a baby, a swarm of bees covered his face and left a drop of honey. Ambrose’s father took it as a sign of Ambrose’s future ability as an eloquent speaker (sweet-tongue). Another interpretation of the child in a cradle is that it was a child who requested that Ambrose be bishop of Milan. Each the four Church Fathers are depicted with a dove, symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit in order to represent their holiness.

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