P5 - Jesus and the Blind Man

These activities appear in the book Jesus Through Art by Margaret Cooling by Religious and Moral Education Press.  The book is out of print.  Please advise if this book becomes in print again, and this section will be removed from the website.  The books Christianity Through Art and The Bible Through Art are still available from Religious and Moral Education Press.

Teacher's Notes 

Jesus opens the eyes of a man born blind by Duccio, active 1278-1319 

Introducing the painting to pupils

Discuss the two meanings of the verb 'to see'.  We use this word to mean 'seeing with our eyes', but we also use it to mean understanding: 'Now I see'.  This painting and the painting 'The Transfiguration'  are all about these two types of sight.

Background to the Painting 

Duccio (Doo-choh) was born in Siena, in Italy. His most important pupil was Ugolino di Nerio. In this painting, Jesus is at the centre of the scene and the blind man is shown twice: first having his eyes touched, and then at the moment when his sight is restored. The blind man's stick acts as a visual link between the two episodes. Originally, this painting came from an altar­piece painted for Siena Cathedral between 1308 and 1311. The front of the altarpiece showed Mary and Jesus in heaven; the back, from which the paintings of the man born blind and the Transfiguration (page 32) come, showed small scenes from Jesus' life, with the Crucifixion at the centre. Most of the panels of the altarpiece are small: the figures on them are only about 25 cm high. 

The painting of the man born blind was originally positioned immediately to the left of the painting of the Transfiguration. So it appeared to an onlooker that the blind man was looking at the shining Christ of the Transfiguration. The blind man can see with his eyes and he can 'see' (understand with his mind) that Jesus is special. 

Jesus is shown with a golden halo. The halo is often a symbol of divinity (God). It originated in Persia as a symbol of the sun's power. Jesus is called the 'Sun of Righteousness' in the Bible. He is also called the 'Light of the World'. 

It is probable that at least two painters from Duccio's workshop worked on the picture. The architecture in the background (that of a typical Tuscan town) was probably not executed by Duccio. The buildings are very plain and have been incised with a stylus. Their style is very different from that of other paintings by Duccio. The fountain is like a medieval fountain, not a New Testament pool. 

A Christian Understanding of the Biblical Story 

Christians believe Jesus' miracles help them to understand who he was, for they believe he was the Son of God. One Greek word used for miracles literally means 'sign'. The miracles were like signs which suggested that Jesus was someone special. 

Jesus expected the person who wanted to be healed, or a friend or relative who had brought the person for healing, to have faith in him before he performed a miracle. Christians believe the faith did not make the miracle happen, but it allowed people to accept Jesus' healing power. Faith also made sure that the miracle happened in the context of a relationship. Jesus did not do tricks: he responded to people. 

Conversation Points 

1) Jesus spent three years healing people and teaching about God, yet his enemies hated him. Is goodness always popular? 

2) Why do you think Jesus wanted people to have faith in him before he healed them or their friend/relative?

3) Jesus said there was no specific connection between sin (wrongdoing) and illness. Are people sometimes treated as if illness is their own fault? 

Activities 

1) Music can be used in the background as part of a retelling of the story. The story can be rewritten in the pupils' own words and they can indicate where they would use music conveying different moods or emotions. For example: 

· Joyful music such as Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' (EMI 7633592) or Tchaikovsky's 'Capriccio Italien’ (CHAN-8460) 

· Sad music such as Ravel's 'Pavane for a Dead Princess (CD Decca 410 254-2) or the Miserere from Verdi’s opera 'Il Trovatore' (CD Decca 421 310-2) 

2) Story theatre can be an effective technique for groups of pupils to use to retell the story. Here, each person is assigned a different character or group from within the story and relates the parts of the story where their character(s) is/are the main focus of attention  They speak not only any lines of direct speech, but any narrative that involves their character(s). The storytelling is continuous with participants continually taking over from each other. A group of pupils can practise telling a story this way. It is helpful to go through the story first and colour code different parts so that pupils know where their sections start. 

For more activities, click here and here

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