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Fountain of Life

gospels waters image describes

A number of biblical passages refer to the fountain, well, waters, or rivers of life. Psalm 36 declares that the fountain of life is with the Lord; Psalm 42 describes the soul thirsting for *God; *Ezekiel 47 includes a vision of healing waters; and the closing chapter in the book of Revelation describes Saint *John’s vision of a crystal clear river of the water of life issuing from the throne of God and the Lamb. Revelation 7 also describes the Lamb leading the saved to the living fountains of waters. The healing and redemptive power of these life-giving waters was understood by Christians to refer to *Christ, the Virgin *Mary, *Baptism, paradise, and the Gospels. The Four Rivers of Paradise were thus symbolically connected with the four Gospels. In early Byzantine manuscript illustration, the image of the Fountain of Life was placed with the canon tables of concordant passages in the four Gospels, symbolizing the Gospels as the source of eternal life. The image appears in Carolingian manuscripts showing the fountain as a covered, circular structure with columns, set in a landscape, garden, or surrounded by vegetation and symbolic *birds and *animals such as deer, peacocks, and pelicans.


In later medieval art, the image of the redemptive fountain may be shown as a blood-filled basin within which stands the *cross of Christ’s *Crucifixion. Blood pouring from his wounds fills the fountain; *angels and *saints may be present, assisting people who climb into and bathe in the basin.

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