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Prayer

praying christian saint art

Prayer is an essential element in the Jewish and Christian religions. Praying is an act of worship and may involve oral or silent recitations of praise, supplication, and thanks to *God. The practice of both public and private prayer is detailed in both the Old and New Testaments and was a subject of frequent commentaries by early Christian and medieval theologians. Figures in prayer occur repeatedly in Christian art through the Middle Ages and can be recognized by distinctive gestures and bodily attitudes. In early Christian art, praying figures are often represented as * orant(es) , standing upright with palms raised upward and arms outstretched. The gesture derives from ancient practices, although the outstretched arms were also specified in the early Christian period as a symbolic remembrance of *Christ’s *Crucifixion. In early medieval art, praying figures may be shown with arms bent and open hands held closer to the chest. The practice of clasping hands together in prayer appears to be a Romanesque form, perhaps derived from feudal gestures of homage and obedience. Other prayerful attitudes involve kneeling or prostration . *Saints in medieval art are often depicted in prayer and may be the recipients of special visions (e.g., Saint *John’s apocalyptic visions, the *Mass of Saint Gregory); sometimes the setting will indicate the identity of the praying saint (Saints *Anthony and *Jerome in the desert; Saint *Thomas Becket attacked by soldiers while praying before an altar). Jesus is customarily shown in prayer during the *Agony in the Garden.

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