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Pentecost

spirit apostles holy shown

Pentecost referred originally to the traditional Jewish celebration of the grain harvest, which was held on the fiftieth day after Passover. The festival came also to commemorate *Moses’ receipt of the Tablets of the Law. In the New Testament (Acts 2), the *apostles were gathered at the time of Pentecost, after Jesus’ *death, and a great wind from *heaven and “cloven tongues as of fire” descended upon them. They were filled with the *Holy Spirit, all spoke in different languages, and they were inspired to spread the message of the Gospel throughout the world. This dramatic event (often also titled the Descent of the Holy Spirit) is illustrated in various ways in medieval art. The apostles are normally shown seated; often the Virgin *Mary is depicted in the center of the group; the hand of *God or the figure of *Christ may appear at the top of the composition; and rays of light or flames may enamate downward to the heads of the apostles. The dove, symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit, is often shown, as well as an old man with a scroll (or twelve scrolls), symbolizing the prophet Joel (whom *Peter quotes as predicting the event). Additional smaller figures, when included, represent the twelve nations of the world.

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