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Last Judgment

christ apocalypse frequently saint

Themes of justice, rewards for the righteous and punishments for evildoers, are found throughout the Old and New Testaments. As eventually developed in Judaism, the concept that earthly suffering and righteous living will be rewarded in the afterlife and penalties will be afflicted on the wicked, was further evolved in Christian teachings about the second coming of Christ, when judgment will be carried out on all the living and the dead. Jesus spoke frequently of it in the Gospels, and the *Apocalypse contains a detailed description of the events to be anticipated at the end of time. A frequent topic in the writings of numerous early Christian and medieval theologians, the Last Page 151  Judgment has received various pictorial treatments through the Middle Ages, increasing in complexity, symbolism, and narrative detail.


Matthew 25:31-33 recounts Jesus’ description of the Son of Man enthroned, dividing the nations, as a *shepherd separates sheep from goats. This is illustrated in early sixth-century mosaics showing Christ, between two *angels, blessing the sheep on his right side. The rejected goats gather on his left. This solemn and symbolic image continued to be compositionally echoed, especially in Byzantine art, in such images as the * Deësis (Christ with the Virgin *Mary and Saint *John the Baptist as intercessors) and other static, symbolic illustrations of the prepared Throne of Judgment holding a *cross and crown.


In early medieval and especially Romanesque and Gothic art in the west, the tendency to depict the Last Judgment as a multifaceted and cataclysmic event increases. The individual episodes described in the Apocalypse are frequently gathered together, especially in the sculptured portals of Romanesque and Gothic churches. In these monumental programs, Christ appears, enthroned (sometimes on a rainbow) in the center of the composition; a sword may project from his mouth, and he may be accompanied by the four beasts , angels, and the *Twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse. The *Resurrection of the Dead may be shown, Saint *Michael may appear weighing *souls in a pair of scales; the damned may be shown suffering torments in *helland the blessed are led to *heaven by Saint *Peter. Angels may hold the *Instruments of the Passion, and Mary, John, and other *saints may be identifiable. Illustrations of the Last Judgment are also frequently found in manuscript illustration, fresco, and stained glass.

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