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Building a Catholic Church in the 21st Century: Tradition Observed, Part II Frank Mitjans 10. The image of Christ in the West: 10.1. Tradition Observed Before suggesting some answers to his challenge, let us look more closely at some facets of the question of images, first with regard to the image of Christ. 1. Romanesque (Norman) churches were almost without exception painted. The main figure was the image of Christ in majesty, painted on the semi-spherical ceiling of the apse, towards which the eyes of priest and the people converged, as in the case of the church of St. Clement at Tahull in the Catalan Pyrenees, from the beginning of the12th century (Figure 10.1). In this case, Christ holds on open book with the words: EGO SUM LUX MUNDI, spelling out the message that He is the Oriens at which the Christian faithful gaze. He is surrounded by the symbols of the four Evangelists; below are paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St John the Evangelist, and other Apostles. 2. The Romanesque Crucifix, moreover, was usually painted on a wooden cross of large dimensions so as to be prominent within the apse (Figure 10.2.1). At times the symbols of the four Evangelists would be placed at the four extremes of the cross; in other cases Mary and John would be presented standing at the foot of the cross on their own or with the holy women. Angels would complete the composition and perhaps other figures such as the Risen Christ1 and saints above the scene of the Crucifixion, and even the hand of God the Father at the very top. 3. The first type of panel painting to evolve in Italy was in fact the crucifix, often on a very large scale (for instance, the Pisa crucifixes 1 The combination of Christ on the Cross and the Risen Christ above would continue, see for instance Giotto’s crucifix (circa 1310) that hung in the sanctuary of the Arena Chapel (in this case, Mary and John appear also on the end of the horizontal crossbeam). Antiphon 15.3 (2011): 216-248 217 Building a Catholic Church in the 21st Century: Tradition Observed, Part II Figure 10.1: The image of Christ in the West Image of Christ in Majesty painted on the apse of the church of San Clemente de Tahull, Spain (consecrated on 10 December 1123). The image of Christ is at the East end of the church. Christ, Alpha and Omega, holds the open book of Sacred Scripture on which the words EGO SUM LUX MUNDI are written spelling out that He is the Oriens at which the Christian faithful gaze. The painting of Christ is surrounded by the symbols of the four Evangelists; the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John, and other Apostles, are painted below.. Free photograph downloaded from Wikimedia Commons. 218 Frank Mitjans Figure 10.2.1: Romanesque Crucifix The Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and St John kept at the Medieval and Renaissance Gallery of the V&A, museum number 850-1900. Photo© Victoria and Albert Museum, London Oil painting on canvas laid on wooden panel, Italian, 12th century, In this case Christ on the Cross is painted with open eyes and His body is almost straight. This is in contrast with the closed eyes and strongly curving body of Italian crucifixes after 1250. In the top terminal is Christ in Majesty with two angels, at the lower terminal is the Denial of St Peter. In the side terminals are, on the left, Christ descending into hell after the Resurrection, and, on the right, the Holy Women at the Sepulchre. The several ways of portraying Christ illustrate Ratzinger’s assertion that each portrait of Christ includes the suffering Christ, the risen Christ, and Christ in Majesty. 219 Building a Catholic Church in the 21st Century: Tradition Observed, Part II are about 4m high). The earlier ones depicted Christ still alive. By the beginning of the 13th century Christ on the cross is shown already dead, but surrounded by scenes depicting episodes that followed the Crucifixion: On the same panel are often to be found the Crucified Christ and the Risen Christ, and...


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