© Hildesheim, St Godehard |
FROM THE CROSS
Matthew 27:57-59; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-53
Joseph of Arimathea stands with his back to the cross, supporting the
limp form of the dead Christ. His arms have been detached from the cross
and are being tenderly held by Mary and John, The cross is cut from a
living tree, the lignum vitae type. A small figure at the bottom removes
a nail from Christ’s foot. A woman and man flank Mary and John.
They are possibly one of the Three Maries and Nicodemus. Two ministering
angels crouch above. The label, on which the letters INRI should be inscribed,
is blank. This is another example (like Mary’s book at the
Annunciation, p19) where lettering has been overlooked in the section
of the miniatures.
The normal arrangement for the Descent from the Cross shows one of Christ’s
arms still attached above his head, and Mary holding the other arm lower
down, giving the scene a strongly diagonal composition. In the St Albans
Psalter it is almost symmetrical, with Mary and John balancing each other
statically as they normally do in a Crucifixion. This arrangement appears
in Armenian manuscripts and is also found in Italy , as in the wood carving
at Volterra (AP, 70, pl 120-121).
The St Albans Psalter is exceptional in omitting the Crucifixion altogether
but this composition serves as its highly charged emotional substitute.
The reader was probably supposed to look up at this stage and contemplate
a crucifix sculpture. Romanesque murals of the Passion at Ickleton (Cambridgeshire,
not far from Huntingdon) and Kempley (Gloucestershire) also show this
mixture of painting and scuplture, leaving a gap in the picture cycle
for contemplating the Rood (Park, 1987 , 159 and 1991, 31)
Thread or stitch holes for protective curtain