Today is the feast-day of Saint Michael the Archangel–a good day to take a look at a rare example of German woodcarving on display in one of Rome’s art museums.
Michael’s battle against Satan is described in the Apocalypse (12:7-9):
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels [going forth] to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels;
“And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.
“And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.”
That’s basically what we see in Michael Pacher’s statue, which dates from the year 1485. This lovely work of art ended up in Rome, thanks to an upper-class American art collector named George Washington Wurts and his wife Henrietta Tower, who died in 1933. The enormous Tower-Wurts collection of decorative artworks was bequeathed to none other than Benito Mussolini, and then became the property of the Italian State. So you can see that this Saint Michael has certainly had an interesting history!
In the late 1800’s, Pope Leo XIII composed the prayer to Saint Michael, which is still popular and very necessary today:
“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl through the world, seeking the ruin of souls.”