Tuesday, April 07, 2009

More Lindisfarne Gospels

The picture I used for the post on the Lindisfarne Gospels gave rise to quite a few comments as to why the lion, symbol of St Mark, was accompanied by the words `imago leonis` as if it wasn`t obvious. Here`s the picture of St Matthew.


The bad news is that the symbolic figure of a man is accompanied by the words `imago hominis`. I`ve no idea why this is necesssary. Is there an expert on Anglo-Saxon art out there who can provide some enlightenment? And who is that peeping out from behind the curtain?

9 comments:

1569 Rising said...

Alistair Campbell, or Peter Mandelson

Patricius said...

Another question is why does the inscription referring to Saint Matthew use the Greek "Hagios" (and not "Sanctus") Mattheus?

madame evangelista said...

This doesn't explain the need for the obvious caption, but I think the pictures are tweaked copies from other (non Anglo-Saxon)manuscripts so the man peeping out from behind the curtain might have made sense in the original context, one that might not have anything to do with the gospels at all.

I think it's possible the words are just there for decorative purposes.

Tea drinker said...

I've never seen a man with wings so I think the caption should really say "imago angeli". I assume it's referring to the being that it is nearest to, anyway.
The person behind the curtain is bearded so I don't think he's Mandelson or Darling. Brian Blessed maybe, or David Bellamy? Can't think of any more likely characters with beards at the moment. Maybe it's just another monk saying "Yo, Matt! Do you want sugar in your tea?"

Pastor in Valle said...

Isn't it simply the identification of the four beasts in the Apocalypse with the Evangelists (though the Vulgate uses 'simile' rather than 'imago'?
Apoc. 4:7 "the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle".
I'm trying to remember which of the fathers it was first made this identification. I'm thinking Irenaeus, but I might be wrong.

Patricius said...

Tea drinker perhaps alerts us to the obvious reason for the "image of a man" inscription since the wings might otherwise suggest an angel to the uninitiated. The winged man is the symbol of the evangelist Matthew, just as the winged lion is that of St Mark, the winged Ox of St Luke and the eagle (already supplied with wings) is for St John. The origin of these figures, the tetramorph or apocalyptic beasts, is Ezekiel 1.10 and Apocalypse4.7. Their traditional association with their respective evangelists goes back to St Irenaeus.That of St.Matthew, the figure of a man, when given wings might easily be mistaken for an angel and the artist may well have wished to avoid that confusion by means of the inscription and, having thus provided a caption for the first evangelist, felt obliged to do the same for the others. The same inscriptions are found in other Gospel Books of the period.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Many thanks for your comments. I was aware of the tradition of the four symbols of the evangelists: my quibble was with the labels. I have pulled down my book on the lindosfarne Gospels by Backhouse. I have the picture of St Mark from the Gospels of St Chad in front of me and there is no writing of any kind to identify the evangelist or his lion (which has no wings).

Madeame E, my book says that the figure peeping from behind the curtain is reminiscent of manuscripts of the collected letters of St Gregory the Great where an attendant deacon is depicted having an illicit glimpse of Pope Gregory while he is being inspied by the Holy Dove, so I think you are right. My book says:`This figure has caused much discussion and may possibly represent Christ`.

Augustine said...

There are some Roman churches that use the word "Hagios" in their mosaics. I would imagine that Father will know better than I exactly which churches these are, but I'm sure I have photos somewhere...

Anonymous said...

I always thought it might be the Author/Illustrator himself, a little monastic joke, perhaps? They did happen!