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Entombment

body examples byzantine western

All four Gospels recount that after *Christ was taken down from the *cross , his body was carried to and placed in a tomb provided by *Joseph of Arimathaea. Various stages in the process and different settings are represented in medieval art. Early Byzantine examples (e.g., ninth-century manuscript illustrations) depict Joseph of Arimathaea and *Nicodemus carrying the (normally cloth-wrapped) body toward a cave or rock-hewn grave or placing the body within, or on the ground in front of, the cave. Early western examples may instead show an architectural structure (mausoleum) or sarcophagus into which the body is lowered. In both western and Byzantine examples of the tenth and eleventh century, additional figures may be present; the Virgin *Mary and Saint *John the Evangelist may carry, or assist with carrying, the body; they may walk alongside or stand or sit in attitudes of mourning . Two other women watching or sitting by the grave may also appear As developed by the eleventh and twelfth century, western examples particularly emphasize the moment when Christ is lowered into the sarcophagus, surrounded and supported by the mourning figures of Mary, John, Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus. Occasionally, in both western and Byzantine examples, the anointing or embalming of the body may be shown, as part of, or as a separate episode from the Entombment itself. In this case, figures are shown pouring oil upon and rubbing the body with their hands. In Byzantine art, the representation of the body of Christ on the anointing stone, alone, or with *angels and the symbols of the *Four Evangelists, is known as the epitaphios (shroud image), as it was often depicted on shrouds used in Good Friday liturgical commemorations.
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