Friday, September 12, 2014

Art and Death in Byzantium

The Metropolitan Museum of New York features a large collection of artistic representations of death in Byzantium.

Dramatic illustrations of saintly deaths, as well as elaborate tombs featuring portraits of the deceased, were among the most powerful and persistent images in medieval Byzantium from the ninth to the fifteenth century. Such artistic monuments expressed both individual and communal ideas about death, and life after death. Byzantine Christians believed in the soul's gradual separation from the earthly body after dying, led forth by the archangel Michael. This separation of the soul from the flesh happened over the course of three days and concluded ultimately, at the end of time, in the Last Judgment, a belief held commonly by medieval Christians in both East and West. At the Last Judgment, the individual soul was either eternally condemned to hell or placed among the saved in the gardens of Paradise.
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