© Hildesheim, St Godehard |
Mary and the apostles are seated in a firmly locked circular enclosure.
The apostles are in profile, looking at the dove, but Mary faces forwards.
They sit with palms raised. The dove of the Holy Spirit descends from
above. In Acts (2:1-3) Mary is not mentioned on the scene, but as with
the Ascension, she represents the incarnation without which there would
be no Pentecost. Theological justification for this was explained by Odilo
of Cluny whose homily on Mary at both the Ascension and Pentecost emphasises
her role in the incarnation.
Mary at the centre of Pentecost is depicted in the 6th-century Rabula
gospels (Florence, Bibliotheca Medicea Laurenziana, MS. Plut. I, 56),
where all the figures are standing in an open area. The St Albans setting,
in a curved enclosure is shown in the Carolingian Bible of San Paolo fuori
le Mura where all the figures, including Mary, are seated. (AP,67,
pl 119b,c,d, 137).
This scene, together with Mary Magdalen’s annunciation to the apostles
and Mary at the Ascension, shows an important female emphasis in the life
of Christ. This demonstrates both the growing cults of the Virgin and
Magdalen, and the feminine spirituality of Christina whose life mirrored
these scenes. Christina witnessed the Holy Spirit descending as a dove
(Talbot, 1998, 156-7).
Thread or stitch holes for protective curtain