The work is a modern altarpiece that touches upon the profound mysteries of human existence – death, suffering and sacrifice. It shows four figures exposed to the invincible forces of nature – represented by the elements earth, air, fire and water. As the work opens, all individuals are shown in stasis, a pause before the suffering. Gradually the martyrdom begins. As the elements rage, each martyr’s resolve remains unchanged. The four panels represent the darkest hour of the martyr’s passage through suffering and death into the light.
The Greek word for martyr originally meant a “witness”. In today’s world, the mass media turns us all into witnesses to the suffering of others. The martyrs exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship, and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs, and principles. Earth Martyr, Air Martyr, Fire Martyr and Water Martyr represent that fortitude, perseverance, endurance, and sacrifice. // B. V.
Courtesy of Vanhaerents Art Collection Brussels Belgium.