In this early work by Bellini, Christ is shown as the Redeemer. The panel may have served as the door of a tabernacle, in which the wine and bread of the Mass were kept.
Christ is shown after the Crucifixion, as the Man of Sorrows, whose blood saves the world from sin. He holds his cross, with the crown of thorns. An angel catches his blood in a chalice like the ones used in the Mass.
The parapet reliefs illustrating antique and pagan rituals may have a significance for the meaning of the painting, but no convincing theory about this has yet been advanced. Before cleaning in 1978 there was an unbroken tiled floor, including some oil-paint over Bellini's original egg tempera. Cleaning removed these additions.
The bare patches of gesso, or ground, were originally painted as clouds with red and blue angels with much gold. We do not know why or when the angels were removed, but it was certainly done after Bellini finished the work.