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Beatitudes of the Soul

medieval figures art series

During the *Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pronounced a series of blessings characterizing those who live in accord with *God’s kingdom Each saying begins, “Blessed are …” (the poor in spirit, mourning, meek, righteous, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted). These spiritual qualities and consequences, similar to those spoken about by Jesus to his disciples in *Luke 6:20-22, may be illustrated in medieval art by female figures bearing scrolls inscribed with the words of each blessing.


Additionally, medieval theologians (notably Saint *Anselm in the eleventh century) expanding upon the biblical beatitudes, identified a series of “gifts” to be anticipated by the righteous in the renewed state of the world after the *Last Judgment. These fourteen beatitudes of the body and the *soul are also depicted in medieval art, especially during the Gothic period, as personified figures representing: Beauty, Agility, Strength, Freedom, Health, Pleasure, and Longevity (the gifts of the body), and Wisdom, Friendship, Concord, Honor, Force, Serenity, and Joy (the gifts of the spirit). The figures are accompanied Page 33  by appropriate attributes, for example, Roses for Beauty , Doves for Friendship . For related themes,

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