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Goliath

david jerusalem medieval david’s

he huge and mighty Philistine warrior Goliath features in 1 Samuel 17 as a formidable opponent of the Israelite army during the reign of King *Saul. He daily challenged the Israelites to send forth a man to engage him in single combat, but none would dare until the *shepherd boy (and future king) *David heard his threats and went out to fight Goliath armed only with five smooth stones and a sling. David was able to topple Goliath with a single slingshot and then cut off Goliath’s head with the giant’s own sword. David collected Goliath’s armor and brought the severed head back to Jerusalem, where the young shepherd then became an even more favored (but also feared) member of the court of King Saul.

The combat with Goliath is one of the most frequently represented scenes from the life of David and can be found in art from the early Christian through late Gothic period both as an independent image and in pictorial narrative cycles. The subject appears in third-century frescoes, fifth-century sculptures, seventh-century metalwork, with great frequency in western medieval and Byzantine manuscript illustration and in other media throughout the medieval period. In early Christian examples, Goliath will often appear dressed as a Roman soldier, while later examples may show him with the costume and arms of a medieval knight. The disparity in size between the two opponents is often emphasized; the imposing Goliath in full armor towers over the youth, who nevertheless defeats him. Sequential narrative treatments will frequently include the decapitation scene as well as the preceding combat in which David will be shown slinging a stone at the menacing giant. Sometimes an *angel or the hand of *God are shown, symbolizing David’s faith and God’s assistance in this deed. David’s triumphal return to Jerusalem is also illustrated; he carries the head of Goliath and is greeted by joyful women. As an image of triumph and faith in God, the subject was interpreted by Christian theologians as the victory of *Christ over evil; David’s triumphal return to Jerusalem is seen as a prefiguration of Christ’s *Entry into Jerusalem.

Gomes, Peter(1942–) - Minister, educator, Chronology [next] [back] Golgi, Camillo

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