Beauty is a gift that we discover, receive, and steward. Makoto Fujimura

François Peltier: The Apocalypse of Saint-Émilion

ArtWay Visual Meditation 10 September 2023

François Peltier: The Apocalypse of Saint-Émilion

A Revelation to Arrest Secular Hearts

by Elria Kwant

The Apocalypse of Saint-Émilion, according to St John is a monumental painting, installed in the cloister courtyard of the Collegiate Church of Saint-Émilion, an active Catholic community near Bordeaux in the wine region of Southwestern France. The artist, François Peltier, lives locally. The painting – 38.5 metres wide and 5 metres high – was completed in 2018.

Peltier studied painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium. Drawn to the Flemish Primitives, he trained in the old Flemish technique of glazing, a slow way of painting with a luminous result. A turning point in his life came after completing a mural, The Way of the Cross, in the Church of Notre-Dame at Bias where Peltier lives, not far from St Émilion. He would devote the rest of his life to ‘sacred art’ in the Catholic tradition, that is art as both an apologetic of the faith and a catechesis in faith. It is art “oriented toward the infinite beauty of God ... to God's praise and glory ... to the single aim of turning men's minds devoutly toward God” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 122).

When Father Emeric de Rozières, parish priest of the Collegiate Church, saw Peltier’s The Way of the Cross, he had the idea for a series of Apocalypse paintings so beautiful they would arrest the thousands of visitors yearly passing through Saint-Emilion and its historic monolithic church. Concerned about the secularization of his nation, the loss of hope he perceived, and the widespread confusion of so many, he longed for beauty that would communicate hope and reveal God’s love.

Peltier’s first attempts were disappointing to both him and Father de Rozières, who firmly responded: “You did not achieve a satisfactory result because you do not have sufficient knowledge of the text and you are distracted by your other work. The Apocalypse requires a total immersion in the text. You are therefore going to refuse all the other proposals and devote yourself exclusively to the Apocalypse of Saint-Emilion. For this, the Parish will provide for your daily bread and we will seek donors to finance the work itself. You have a year ahead of you.” This released Peltier to immerse himself in the biblical text for six months, including discussions with theologians and priests, before setting to work again. The result is stunningly beautiful, joyful, and bright. It overwhelms you, with so much happening simultaneously at so many levels. The painting is framed at the top with a frieze referring to the Genesis creation account, for the Apocalypse involves the whole biblical story, beginning to end.

The location prompted Peltier to structure the painting around three doors: the St John’s Door, where visitors enter from the tourist office, depicting the prologue; a full-length ‘double-door’ constructed in the centre (of the biblical vision as well as the painting), depicting the Vision of God (the ‘contemplative’ Trinity) through the Door of Christ, which separates the ‘good’ side (viewer’s right) from the ‘dark’ side (viewer’s left); and the New Jerusalem Door, where visitors exit into the Collegiate Church on their way out.

Leaving the cloister into the church by the New Jerusalem Door

Peltier uses contemporary materials, applied with an old technique in a novel way. His symbols have iconic, ethnic, ecological and modern allusions, and he speaks of ‘writing’ his painting. There are flicks, waves and avalanches of gold, symbolizing the presence of God, both on the ‘good’ and ‘dark’ sides: because God reaches in, and is always reachable, however hopeless the circumstances. The face of Jesus, for example, arrests as an icon, his hair resembling the ‘curls’ of the lamb.

The painter, François Peltier, explaining some of the symbols on the “dark” side

As visitors walk through, some are moved, all are delighted, most are completely at a loss to the meaning of what they see. It reminded me of the Dutch art historian, Hans Rookmaaker’s remark, “We see what we know.” We also know because something was revealed. So the artist included seven ‘seals’, each bearing the words of one of the ‘beatitudes’ of the Apocalypse. May many, ‘mingling’ with the painted crowd in white robes as they exit under the representation of the river of life flowing from the throne and the Lamb, see for the first time or again, how to enter.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city!” (Revelation 22:14)


The Apocalypse of Saint-Émilion according to St John (2015-2018) is located in the cloister of the medieval Collegiate Church of Saint-Émilion at Saint-Émilion at the heart a designated UNESCO World heritage site near Bordeaux, France. It is open to visitors. Contact the website of the tourist office at

Recommended video: Une vision de Apocalypse (2018),

François Peltier was born on 7 September 1955 at Caudéran, today a quartier of Bordeaux, France. After attending Collège Saint-Joseph in Sarlat and the European School of Luxembourg, he decided, aged 15, to become a painter. He had a passion for the Flemish Primitives, and went to Brussels (Belgium) to attend courses at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts (the Royal Academy of Fine Arts). He graduated in 1978 with honours in painting (Diplôme Supérieur de Peinture de Chevalet). Peltier later trained at the Manufacture d'Estampes et de Livres d'Art in Brussels (Belgium) under Maître-Pressier André Colpin. Since 1979, he has dedicated himself entirely to painting and his work has been included in private collections in 15 countries. The artist can be contacted via his website at

Elria Kwant is an enthusiast supporter of the arts and dabbler in writing. She grew up in South Africa during the Apartheid years. Elria is married to Pieter Kwant and has lived in the UK since 1987. Pieter and Elria have four grown-up, married children and eleven grand-children. Together with Pieter, Elria has been involved in Christian literature over the years. Since 1995 she has worked as freelance editor, mainly on large missions projects. Pieter retired from his role as Publishing Director for Langham Partnership at the end of 2022. The couple continue to run their own small publishing/literary agency, Piquant, started in 1999. The arts have been a lifelong interest, ever since their introduction to the complete works, and legacy, of Rookmaaker at Dutch L’Abri!



CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN PHOTOGRAPHY – Exhibition review by Jonathan Evens on ArtLyst. “A World In Common: Contemporary African Photography at Tate Modern draws on the theories of Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe (born 1957) by inviting us to imagine “a world in common”. To do this, Mbembe claims, we must “think the world from Africa”. ‘A World In Common’ explores Africa’s past, present and future to create a more expansive and inclusive narrative of humanity. It suggests that to conceive “a world in common” is to imagine a future of possibility. Unfolding across three chapters – Identity and Tradition, Counter Histories and Imagined Futures – the exhibition charts the dialogue between photography and contemporary perspectives on cultural heritage, spirituality, urbanisation, and climate change to reveal shared artistic visions that reclaim Africa’s histories and reimagine its place in the world.” Read more

GÜLER ATES EXHIBITIONS – On her first trip to the United States, Güler Ates has two simultaneous solo exhibitions this September, in Maine and Washington, DC. Travel and displacement are recurring themes in the work of Ates, who was born in Muş, Eastern Turkey, where she belonged to the oppressed Zazaki-speaking minority. Ates eventually moved to Western Turkey to study in Marmara on the Bosphorus Strait, where the continents and cultures of Europe and Asia meet. She went on to study at the Royal College of Art and is now on the faculty of the Royal Academy Schools in London. Ates’s multidisciplinary work explores intersecting themes including diasporic experience, the ambiguities of domestic space, and the legacies of colonialism. She is best known for her images of ambiguous figures veiled in shimmering robes, often situated in historic homes and museums, from England to Italy to India. Her US exhibitions feature a selection of these photographs, but they also demonstrate Ates’s restless experiments in both theme and medium, bringing in haunting sound installations alongside video work. Drawing upon her own experiences of displacement, Ates has collaborated extensively with members of immigrant and refugee communities, producing work that explores what it means to try and create new lives, identities, and homes in the wake of traumas such as the Syrian Civil War. Recently, she has begun creating quilts with poetic passages drawn from the people she interviews and works with. As she observes, the act of sewing can open up space for women to process traumatic experiences together. (Aaron Rosen)

Ates’s current exhibitions are:

* En Route by Güler Ates, Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion, Washington, DC September 5 to November 28.

* Passages by Güler Ates, The Parsonage Gallery, Searsport, Maine, now through September 18.

PETER HOWSON EXHIBITION – When the Apple Ripens: Peter Howson at 65, May 27–October 1, 2023, City Art Centre, Edinburgh. City Art Centre in Edinburgh is hosting a major retrospective of one of the UK’s leading figurative painters, Peter Howson. Curated by David Patterson, the exhibition brings together some one hundred works spanning the artist’s career, many never seen before in Scotland, with subjects ranging from working-class Glasgow men to the Bosnian War (into which Howson was sent as official war artist) to biblical stories. His work deals with themes of aggression, struggle, and faith. Artist and art educator Tessa Asquith-Lamb discusses five key works from the exhibition in this twenty-minute video:  “I like to bring the Bible into this world we live in today,” says Howson, who is a Christian. (He made headlines when he went public with the story of his religious conversion while undergoing treatment for alcohol and drug abuse in 2001.) Reflecting on the reception of and motivation behind his biblical works, he said in a recent video interview (30:31ff.): “There’s two camps of people. There’s the people that groan whenever they see a religious painting of mine, and they say, “Why can’t he stay away from religion?” It’s that kind of embarrassment about religion. They don’t like my religious art, but I continue to do it. . . . And then there’s the other people that actually are religious, but they don’t like it because it’s too frightening for their gentle, staid, normal religiousness. They don’t want anything nasty happening in their lives or anything that’s going to cause a stir. So to them it’s a big danger as well, the stuff I do, because it’s violent, it’s real. It’s like the consuming fire of God. The Bible is an incredible book. It’s a book that’s got everything in it, really. It’s got so much tragedy, violence, disaster, despair. It’s also got incredible revelation in it. It’s got incredible acts of love and kindness.” Read more (scroll down to the second item)

A PROFOUND WEAKNESS BY BETTY SPACKMAN – Since it went out of print people have asked about the possibility of getting an e-book version of the book, A Profound Weakness, Christian and Kitsch. Publisher Pieter Kwant of Piquant Editions, UK, has just made available a pdf download of the book for free. Here it is if you are interested: NOTE: This is a temporary link - so download asap if you want it.

PODCAST OF INTERVIEW WITH CANADIAN ARTIST BETTY SPACKMAN – In this interview in Radix, Betty shares with us some of her thoughts on the importance of art in general, common misconceptions that are held about it, what it means to be creative (and she thinks we all are), as well as some ideas on how Christians can meaningfully assist in helping the arts to flourish. Also—and this is important—Betty believes in the power of kindness and hospitality, and you’ll hear it come through in the interview. Read more

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