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Wise and Foolish Virgins

lamps five oil bridegroom

Jesus told the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins in *Matthew 25:1-13, reminding his audience to be always ready for the second coming and *Last Judgment. The lesson contrasts the well-prepared (wise) virgins, who have supplies of oil for their lamps, with the unprepared (foolish) virgins, who have no oil for their lamps at a critical moment. On the eve of a wedding, the ten went out according to custom to meet and accompany the bridegroom, but the foolish virgins were not ready and needed to purchase more oil for their lamps. In their absence, the wise virgins accompanied the bridegroom to the wedding, and the foolish five returned to find the door shut against them. In art, the foolish virgins are often shown with expressions of dismay, sometimes standing outside the closed door, with their empty vessels turned upside down; the wise virgins are shown with lighted lamps and smiling (often smug) expressions. The subject appears in early Christian manuscripts and was quite popular in Gothic portal sculpture.

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