Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chartres Cathedral (#5): The Man is attacked by Robbers

Continuing the parable (Luke 10:30):  "Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead."

Here (above) we see one of the robbers hiding behind a tree (unseen by the man) as the man travels from Jerusalem to Jericho. The robber is starting to pull his sword out of its scabbard. This scene is in the middle of a "medallion cluster." The next scene is just to the right of this scene, in the same medallion cluster:

This scene shows the man being attacked by three robbers. The robber on the left has his sword ready to strike. The robber in the middle (back) is attacking the man with a club. The third robber, dressed in red, is stripping the man of his clothes.

What we see in many of these stained-glass windows is that there is not necessarily a consistency in the appearance of the characters. Note, for example, that the robber with a sword wears green clothes in the first scene and red clothes in the second (the robbed man also has different clothes). 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Chartres Cathedral (#4): The Man leaves Jerusalem

Chartres Cathedral: The Man leaves Jerusalem

The image portrays the beginning of the parable: "Jesus replied, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho . . .'" (Luke 10:30a). In this scene of the window, the man leaves Jerusalem, which is depicted as a walled city, through a red door in the wall.

To understand the developing story "preached" by this stained-glass window, one must remember that it theologically and physically integrates the parable with the story of Adam and Eve (I will explain this in detail as the interweaved stories unfold).  In this way, viewers understand how Jesus, as the true Good Samaritan, restores fallen humanity to a right relationship with God.

The classic statement of this allegorical interpretation of the parable is stated by Augustine:
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means the moon, and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, an dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely; of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half-dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead; he is therefore called half-dead. The priest and the Levite who saw him and passed by, signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament which could profit nothing for salvation. Samaritan means Guardian, and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which He deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travelers returning to their heavenly country are refreshed after pilgrimage. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come. The innkeeper is the Apostle. The supererogatory payment is either his counsel of celibacy, or the fact that he worked with his own hands lest he should be a burden to any of the weaker brethren when the Gospel was new, though it was lawful for him “to live by the gospel” (Dodd 1961: 1-2; slightly abridged).

Monday, May 26, 2014

Chartres Cathedral (#3): Good Samaritan Window, scene 4

Jesus responding to the "Grumbling" of the Lukan Pharisees and Scribes (Luke 15) 

This scene in the window portrays Luke 15:1-3 (NRSV): 

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable. 

The rest of Luke 15 contains the three "Lost" parables: the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Lost (Prodigal) Son.

This scene is the first of five scenes that appear in the first “medallion cluster” (quatrefoil panes) of the Good Samaritan window. 

In this scene, Jesus is seated (on the right) with his hand raised, both of which indicate that he is teaching, and it appears that he is holding a book in his left hand. He is also portrayed with a cross nimbus (red background with a white cross) around his head. 

Two figures, one with a skull cap, sit on the left, listening to Jesus. One looks away from Jesus and toward the other person; the second person either returns the first person's gaze, or he might be looking at Jesus. The word Fariseus appears below them. These are the people to whom Jesus tells the three Lost parables.

Then the window’s scenes visually narrate the key events of the parable as viewers work their way up the window and from left to right when multiple scenes are depicted.  Over the next couple weeks, I will go through those windows one-by-one, and I will explain how the window interprets the parable of the Prodigal Son allegorically.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chartres Cathedral (#2): Good Samaritan Window, scenes 1-3

I will talk about the first three scenes in the Good Samaritan window at Chartres Cathedral in this post. An overview of all the stained glass windows at Chartres Cathedral may be found here. The links to all the Good Samaritan scenes in that window may be found here (the 24 pictures I will post of these scenes all come from that very helpful website).

As I noted in my previous post, the Good Samaritan window is found in the south aisle of the nave, and it has a total of 24 separate but interconnected images that make up the window. At the bottom are three scenes that depict shoemakers, the group that donated the money to pay for this window.

The first image (bottom left) shows a single shoemaker hard at work:

The second image (bottom center) shows two shoemakers working on soles of shoes:

The third scene (bottom right) shows a group of seven shoemakers presenting the panel of windows (that tell the story of the Good Samaritan in allegorical form) to the viewers. Some of shoemakers are looking up and worshipping Jesus:

The next scene, that I will discuss in the next post, presents Jesus in Luke 15:1-3 (telling the Lukan Pharisees and scribes the three "Lost" parables).

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Chartres Cathedral: The Good Samaritan

Chartres Cathedral: Good Samaritan Window Overview

Many medieval images reinforce allegorical interpretations (e.g., of Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, and others) that the parable of the Good Samaritan symbolizes fallen humanity, Satan’s attacks, the Law’s inadequacy, and Jesus’ mercy. Such symbolic elaborations are found, for example, in 12th century stained-glass windows in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres. These twenty-four images physically and theologically integrate the parable with the Fall of Adam and Eve: Jesus, as the true Good Samaritan, restores fallen humanity (the wounded man) after being attacked by Satan (the thieves) to a right relationship with God, which the old dispensation (the priest and Levite) cannot provide.

The next few posts will follow story told by this "luminous sermon" (Stoksted) and how it elaborates the parable. Then I follow up by analyzing how stained-glass windows in the Cathedral of St. Etienne in Bourges advance this allegorical interpretation by adding stories of Moses.

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres was a holy site for centuries before the construction of the current Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres. The first reference to a cathedral in Chartres—although bishops are mentioned from as early as the fourth century—was the destruction of the cathedral in 743. Another cathedral was destroyed by Viking raiders in 858. Chartres’s cathedrals were dedicated to the Virgin Mary from at least the eighth century, and its most celebrated relic was a linen garment (Sancta Camisia) believed to have been worn by Mary when Jesus was born. Chartres became a popular pilgrimage site, because stories of healing miracles associated with the garment began to spread. The garment also saved the city from at least one later raid from the Vikings in 911: When the city was besieged by a group of Vikings led by a man named Rollon, the bishop at Chartres displayed the relic on the city ramparts. Rollon not only fled, but he also converted to Christianity and was appointed as the first Duke of Normandy (Miller 1996: 8-9).

The cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1020/30, rebuilt, damaged again when fire ravaged Chartres in 1134, and almost completely destroyed by fire in 1194. The Romanesque church was rebuilt—some parts, such as the “Royal Portal” and the crypt were not destroyed—from 1194 to approximately 1260. This new edifice would be a magnificent Gothic cathedral, an architectural style that produced extremely tall naves and towers, airy interiors, and breathtaking stained glass windows dominating the walls: “Gothic churches became the jeweled houses of God . . . glowing manifestations of Christian doctrines, and invitations to faithful living, encouraging worshipers to follow in the footsteps of the saints whose lives were frequently featured in the windows of Gothic churches” (Stokstad/Cothran 2011: 491).

The Gothic Chartres Cathedral is no exception. The walls serve almost as a bare skeleton for massive stained-glass windows that cover approximately 22,000 square feet. One of the 176 stained-glass windows in the cathedral depicts scenes from the parable of the Good Samaritan and scenes from the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis. This window was created around 1210, and, like all of the stained glass windows in this Gothic cathedral, the messages of these biblical texts are crystal clear even for those who cannot read the texts themselves. As the windows spring to life with the light of day they serve as luminous sermons preached with pictures instead of words (Stokstad/Cothran 2011: 491).

The Good Samaritan window is found in the south aisle of the nave, and it has a total of 24 separate but interconnected images that make up the window. The story and its theological interpretation unfold as viewers work their way from the bottom to the top of the window. At the bottom are three scenes that depict shoemakers, the group that donated the money to pay for this window. The Lukan parable is then depicted in nine different scenes. The first five scenes appear in a “medallion cluster (quatrefoil panes; for more details of the description below, see Miller 1996: 64-65).

In my next few posts, I will work through the different scenes in the window.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Good Samaritan in Visual Art (part 3): Sant’Angelo in Formis (Italy)

North interior wall of Sant'Angelo in Formis (Italy) 

The above photo shows some of the New Testament and Hebrew Bible scenes that were painted on the walls of Sant’Angelo in Formis (in Italy, about 17 miles north of Naples) sometime around 1085. The parable of the Good Samaritan is found in three panels on the north wall, the first of which is found directly underneath the third window from the left in the above photo (If I find a better photo, I will post it).

The first scene depicting the Good Samaritan parable shows the man having been attacked, and his body is covered with bloody wounds. The man's face looks directly (pitifully if not pleadingly; cf. Ward) at the viewer (assuming the viewer is at the same height as the wall painting), which emphasizes the suffering of the victim and heightens the pathos of the scene.

The second panel depicts the priest and the Levite having passed by the wounded man (on the right side of the panel) and the Samaritan assisting him (on the left side of the panel). 

The third scene depicts the Good Samaritan (with a nimbus visible around his head) having taken the man to an inn, and it depicts him giving the innkeeper money to take care of the man.

Two scenes depicting the Rich Man and Lazarus parable are just to the right of these three scenes of the parable of the Good Samaritan, which heightens the impact of the message of the importance of taking care of one's neighbor (Luke 10:29, 36-37).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rossano Gospels: The Wise and Foolish Virgins

Tomorrow we will attend the wedding of the son of my best friend, so in honor of that wedding/bridegroom, let me say a few words about the other parable illumination in the Rossano Gospels, the Wise and Foolish Virgins:

The Rossano Gospels, The Wise and Foolish Virgins

This miniature is placed in the cycle of pictures after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the driving of the money-changers from Temple and before the Last Supper and Jesus’ washing the feet of the apostles. Once again, at the bottom of the page, four characters from the Hebrew Bible stand holding scrolls from their writings that have selections that serve to predict the event pictured above. King David appears three times. The two representations of King David on the left side, both of whom raise their right arms in the direction of the wise virgins, connect Psalm 45:14-15 to the wise virgins (where the princess and her virgin companions “with joy and gladness . . . enter the palace of the king”). On the right, David is paired with the prophet Hosea, and they both characterize the foolish virgins, since their right arms are raised in the direction of the foolish virgins above. David holds a scroll that cites Psalm 53:5 (God rejects the ungodly; they are put to shame and are in “great terror”), and Hosea holds a scroll that quotes Hosea 7:13 (which pronounces woes and destruction on those who have strayed from God).

The parable is depicted at the top of the page. The foolish virgins stand on the left side of the page; Jesus and the wise virgins stand on the right, and Jesus has closed or is closing the door between them. The foolish virgins each wear different colored clothes. Only two foolish virgins carry unlit torches, and they also carry three upside-down, empty small jars for their oil. One empty-handed virgin either is knocking or attempting to open the door, but Jesus stands on the other side with his hand raised, signifying that the door is closed to them forever. Jesus is dressed in gold and dark blue. The five wise virgins stand with Jesus on the right, all of them dressed in white and gold; all five carry lit torches and up-right jars that still contain oil. Behind them is a forest of fruit-bearing trees that clearly represent the garden of Paradise. Paradise is also represented by the four streams of water that flow from the right side of the picture. These four streams merge into one larger stream and end just on the Paradise side of the door, with a small tree planted at the end of the stream, both near the feet of Jesus who is standing at the door. 

Recommended Reading: Jeffrey Spier, Picturing the Bible.

I’ll continue this series of the Good Samaritan in the Visual Arts next week.

"The Work of Christmas," by Howard Thurman

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