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Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

THE RETURN FROM EGYPT
Matthew 2:20-21

The scene is the same as the Flight into Egypt, but in reverse. Mary’s legs face forwards and Joseph still grips his staves with the same hands.

From a Byzantine source it is shown in the same way, as a reverse picture, in Paris Grec 74 (f5r) (AP, 85, pl 112d). In western art, Pächt was only able to find an earlier example in an 11th-century lectionary from Salzburg (Innsbruck, Universitätsbibliothek Cod. 301, f8; AP,85) but the scene also features on the 8th-century Ruthwell Cross. The cross omits the Flight into Egypt and here the Return symbolises the journey back into light from the dark desert. Bede refers to ‘the secret monastic life of the desert’ and a return to the Promised Land for those monks who did not stray. The Return was a feast celebrated (on 9/10 January) in the early church in Northumbria and Ireland. (Meyvaert, 1992, 129-30)

The scene is rare in manuscripts but is such an obvious theatrical device, completing a calm frame to the Massacre scene. It features in the Ordo Rachelis, the miracle play from Fleury.

Quire 2.
Thread or stitch holes for protective curtain



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