Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent; The Second Coming

Christ of the Apocalypse as seen by the High Middle Ages.

There in Heaven stood a throne, and on the throne sat one whose appearance was like the gleam of jasper and carnelian; and round the throne was a rainbow, bright as an emerald. In a circle about this throne were twenty four other thrones, and on them sat twenty four elders, robed in white and wearing crowns of gold. From the throne went out flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. Burning before the throne were seven flaming torches, the seven spirits of God, and in front of it stretched what seemed to be a sea of glass like a sheet of ice.
In the center round the throne itself were four living creatures, covered with eyes, in front and behind. the first creature was like a lion, the second like an ox, the third had a human face, the fourth was like an eagle in flight. The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, had eyes all over, inside and out; by day and by night without pause they sang:

Holy, holy , holy is God the sovereign Lord of all, who was, and is, and is to come!
--Revelations 4:2-8


From the Saint Sever Apocalypse, ca. 1050-1070


Tympanum, West Portal, St. Pierre, Moissac, ca. 1115-1135


Tympanum, West Portal, Chartres Cathedral, ca. 1145-1155


South Rose Window, Chartres Cathedral

8 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

An Apocalypse written in stone just doesn't seem right. I'll take the manuscript or the Chartres Window, please.

Counterlight said...

Grandmere,
I'm not sure I follow. The book is the oldest thing I have illustrated. The whole west fronts of most Gothic cathedrals, beginning with St. Denis, were intended to be great triumphal arches to welcome the returning Messiah at the end of time. Medieval churches always face west to meet the last trumpet of the End Times.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Counterlight, I didn't know that about the arches. That seems sort of silly to me, but that was their theology then, so fine. You see how ignorant I am. The arch in Chartres is gorgeous, but it's not the Apocalypse to me. I don't see how it's possible to depict something as alive as the description of the Apocalypse in Revelation in material as rigid as stone. You'll see that my reaction to art is personal and eccentric, if not downright crazy. You'll also see that there are great gaps in my knowledge of art and architecture. I'm the noble savage. My reactions are primitive. I'll probably stop telling you about them, because I'm embarrassed now.

Counterlight said...

Grandmere,
Oh don't be embarrassed! I'm just puzzled as to why you feel that way about the tympanum sculptures. There certainly are reasonable objections to be made (and were at the time, most famously by St. Bernard of Clairvaux) to the very idea of huge stone monuments about the end of the world. So, you're in good company, though I can't see you and St. Bernard getting along very well. He was one of history's great wet blankets, party poopers, spoilers, etc.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Bernard and I, very likely, would not have got on with each other. He was a foe of Peter Abelard, labeled a heretic, who is the source of my theory of atonement. Besides, he preached for one of the Crusades. It's hard for me to honor saints who favored Crusades.

Davis said...

Mimi,

Bernard and you may well not have gotten on, but we have to see them (and us) as prisoners of our own times and mores. Luther, for example, comes across as a dangerous anti-semite, though he was a remarkable man in many ways. Saints are not perfect, though the popular thinking imagines them to be so. Remember also Mother Theresa's doubts...

Grandmère Mimi said...

Davis, Mother Teresa's doubts don't worry me in the least. One day, in God's perfect kingdom, we will all love one another and see the foolishness of our disputes and condemnations.

Davis said...

Amen, Mimi.