Compendium of Social Doctrine Boasts an Artful Allegory

14th-Century Fresco Graces the Cover

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2004 ( The authors of the new Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church chose what may be a fitting piece of artwork to decorate the cover.

The cover of the work published Monday carries the fresco painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1338-1339) on the «Allegory of Good Government.» It is kept in the Palazzo Publico of Siena, Italy.

It is rare to find pictures on the covers of documents of the magisterium. In this instance, the authors’ choice has meaning, as the inside cover of the compendium explains.

Lorenzetti’s Allegory stems from the biblical figure of Wisdom, portrayed as a crowned woman holding a large scale.

The scale is represented by two balanced pans and, in the middle, the figure of Justice, dressed in splendid garments.

Above this personification is the inscription: «Love Justice, You Who Govern the Earth,» the opening verse of the Book of Wisdom, placed as a word of caution to the City Council that used to meet in this room with frescoes painted by Lorenzetti.

Beneath the figure of Justice there is another figure holding in her lap a carpenter’s plane, to smooth out the ambitious, on which the word «Concordia» is written.

According to the interpretation of the compendium’s authors, the Allegory shows clearly how human Justice in all its forms, descends from the Wisdom of God, and from Justice there comes Concord or harmony in the life of the city.

In Lorenzetti’s painting, from Concord there is a procession of citizens of various social conditions — artisans and professionals, a priest, a soldier, members of the nobility, and public officials — which moves toward an elevated platform where seven people are seated. Six are women with their names written above them; they are the virtues Peace, Fortitude, Prudence, Magnanimity, Temperance and Justice.

In the middle of them is a dignified old man with a scepter in his right hand; he represents the city of Siena. Above his head are the traditional figures of the theological virtues Faith, Hope and Charity.

The compendium’s authors — the work was written by the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice — see in these figures that prosperity and activity in the areas of work, artisanry and education are the mature fruits of a civic life guided by Virtues and cultivated in harmony among citizens.

The inside cover of the compendium reads: «Created for the seat of government of a free republic, these frescoes offer a typically Christian vision of the world whose external order results from an internal order that man receives as a gift, but that he must also choose with responsibility.

«They are images of both the spiritual transparence and the concrete social situation of the thinkers of the period, with their sure faith in God, the principle of all truth and every form of social life and organization.»

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