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Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

THE HARROWING OF HELL
Gospel of Nicodemus

Christ tramples on the broken gates of Hell. The devil, with long pointed ears is bound by handcuffs and a neck halter. Christ, aided by two angels, heroically leans forward to pull first Adam and then Eve out of hell

Hell is a hybrid, represented below in the Anglo-Saxon way as the gaping jaws of a monster, but above, the spewing furnace is an Italian type. An Anglo-Saxon hellmouth is shown in British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius C.VI, f 14; while the Italian furnace is depicted on the bronze doors of Benevento (AP, pl 106).

The gates are also a hybrid: according to the Gospel of Nicodemus they were made of brass. The projection on the lower gate shows they a classical type of harr hung door (rotating around its projecting pin), but the elaborate hinges made of iron scrolls are English. The doors depicted at Benevento are harr hung and without iron straps. The hinges in the Anglo-Saxon Tiberius psalter have curled straps. However the closest parallel comes from St Albans Abbey itself. The hinges devised under Abbot Robert de Gorham (1151-68) for the slype at St Albans are remarkably like those depicted in the psalter. Their distinguishing features are the lyre-shaped scrollwork which is off-set from the edge of the door by a short strap (Geddes, 1999, 63,139). Real doors do not need both methods of attachment, but the St Albans Psalter artist has combined two models. As the ironwork from St Albans slype, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is very innovative, it is possible that the inspiration for the smiths came from the abbey scriptorium.

Christ is depicted, not as the stooping gentle rescuer of the Tiberius psalter, but as a dynamic conqueror of Byzantine type, according to the Gospel of Nicodemus, the king of glory, a triumphant conqueror.

See p285 for a parallel composition underlining this theme of deliverance.


Quire 3.
Thread or stitch holes for protective curtain



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