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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 9 p8 (March 1979).

Copyright notice

Notes on Stamp Designs

Altar Screen of St Jean de Caselles

This work dates from the beginning of the 16th century, the lower portion originally consisting of six panels depicting the Crucifixion while the upper part, flanking a statue of St. John, has twelve tablets depicting scenes from the Book of Revelation and the life of St. John. The screen was stolen in 1935 and later recovered almost intact from Switzerland, only one of the lower panels being untraced. The twelve upper tablets were the subject of the stamps issued by the French Postal Administration between 1969 and 1972, from which a reconstruction of this part of the screen can be made by arranging them in the following order:-

0.90 of 1972
0.30 of 1972
0.30 of 1970
0.40 of 1970
0.90 of 1971
0.50 of 1971
0.70 of 1969
0.30 of 1969
0.50 of 1972
0.30 of 1971
0.80 of 1970
0.40 of 1969
0.90 of 1972 0.30 of 1972 0.30 of 1970 0.40 of 1970
0.90 of 1971 0.50 of 1971 0.70 of 1969 0.30 of 1969
0.50 of 1972 0.30 of 1971 0.80 of 1970 0.40 of 1969

Some of the events depicted appear to be either apocryphal or legendary, but several of the stamps can be identified with verses from the Book of Revelation. The scenes depicted appear to be as follows:-

1. Angel with spear and trumpet. One of the "strong angels" referred to in Rev. 5: 2

2. St John in discussion with a Bishop. This undoubtedly represents the Bishop of one of the seven churches of Asia, to which John was commanded to write

3. St John writing: An angel with keys and padlock, having chained the devil. Rev. 20: 1 & 2

4. Angel with pillar. Not easily identifiable with chapter and verse, but probably intended to represent the building of the New Jerusalem

5. St John arguing with a pagan philosopher. Legendary

6. St John unharmed after drinking cup of poison before a pagan priest. Other partakers of the deadly brew have succumbed and are being carried away. Legendary

7. St John writing: Christ with the two-edged sword, the seven stars in his right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks which represent the seven churches. Rev: 1, 12, 16, 20

8. St John writing: the woman "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet" of Rev. 12:1, and the "great red dragon" of subsequent verses

9. St John healing a paralytic, or cripple. Legendary

10. St John's victory over paganism. The statue shown is probably intended to represent that of the Roman goddess Diana, the scene being set in a Roman temple. Legendary

11. St John being boiled in oil, without harm. A Roman soldier features in the design so this scene is possibly set in Rome also. Legendary

12. St John writing: the mighty angel "clothed with cloud, with face as the sun, and feet as pillars of fire" of Rev. 10: 1 - 3. The animal head to the right of the design intended to be that of a lion, to represent the angel's voice - "as when a lion roareth"

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Valira Torrent no 10, p10

Regarding the notes which appeared on page 8 of Bulletin 9, Mr. David Hope suggests that the stamp numbered 4 may be based on Revelation 3 verse 12 "He who is victorious, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God ... ". David also points out that the scene depicted on stamp number 10 was almost certainly set in Ephesus, not in Rome as implied, as the Temple of Diana was situated at Ephesus and St John is said to have spent the later years of his life in that city. For this reason it is likely that some of the other legendary events shown on the stamps are attributable to Ephesus also. In the case of stamp number 11 the original painting seems with certainty to have been based on a statement of the second century writer Tertullian that St John was immersed in a cauldron of boiling oil, this event traditionally being supposed to have taken place in Rome on the orders of the Emperor Domitian (AD 51-96). Having miraculously escaped unscathed, the saint was then exiled to the island of Patmos where he experienced his vision. Our thanks to David Hope for this information.

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Andorran Philatelic Study Circle / Hon. Librarian: E. J. Jewell / apsc@free.fr /
Updated 17 July 1998