Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Holy Innocents

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents' and I am again using a selection of images posted by John Dillon on the Medieval Religion discussion group site to mark the day.

The story was frequently depicted in medieval churches, and the form often predictable, but the works are also of considerable interest for contemporary details, especially of military dress.


Mosaic of the fifth-century on the triumphal arch, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Image: Wikipedia


Fresco of circa 1180, Panteón de los Reyes, Colegiata de San Isidoro, Léon

Image: World Gallery of Art

The earlier thirteenth-century apse mosaic of circa 1220 of Rome's Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura has a depiction unusual for the medievalperiod showing the Innocents as nimbed martyrs rather than as children being slaughtered:


Image: 4.bp.blogspot.com
In addition to being unusual this particular part of the mosaic is also seldom seen. Since the basilica's rebuilding in the nineteenth century this section of the mosaic has been hidden from ordinary view by a neo-classical entablature as can be seen in the photographs here  and here

St Paul's is the stational church for today as it held relics of the Holy Innocents, and hence their depiction in the mosaic.  

Relief circa 1220 - 1236, south portal, west facade, Amiens cathedral



Tympanum relief between 1280 and circa 1285, north portal, west facade, Strasbourg cathedral



Glass panel circa 1385 by Jakob Acker the Elder, Ulm Minster

Image:gerfaut.d on Flickr


Detail from a wall painting of 1407, 
chiesa parrocchiale di Santa Maria Assunta / Pfarrkirche St. Mariä Himmelfahrt at  Terlano / Terlan (BZ) in the South Tyrol 


Hugo van der Goes, c1440-1482, Massacre of the Innocents

Hugo van der Goes circa 1440-1482

Part of a larger work at the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Image: fixcas.com

Finally here are two rather lurid versions of the story by Matteo di Giovanni, showing how he re-worked the painting for another comission:


Panel painting of 1482  by Matteo di Giovanni, Chiesa di Sant'Agostino, Siena, where he had produced similar images for the mosaics of the cathedral floor. This is considered to be his masterpiece

Image: World  Gallery of Art

File:Matteo di Giovanni 002.jpg 

Panel painting of 1488 by Matteo di Giovanni, Museo nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Image: Wikipedia

1 comment:

The Rad Trad said...

I find particularly heuristic the absence of halo's in the mosaic iconography from St Mary Major in Rome. We should recall that despite their martyrdom, traditional thought held that the Holy Innocents did not go directly to heaven following their deaths, but rather waited for Christ's redemption of mankind on the Cross. Salvation was not yet possible. An ancient indication of this is that, until 1960, the color for this feast was the penitential violet, not the red of martyrs (a Gallican vulgarity).