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Page 39 Commentary

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Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

Luke 22:39-45; Mark 14:32-34

The disciples sleep while Christ goes off alone. His right hand points to the chalice and his left is raised in prayer. He is saying ‘Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me’, and an angel appears to strengthen him (Luke 22: 39-45). The psalter follows Mark (14:32-41) who names the sleeping disciples as Peter, James and John while their name and number are kept vague in Luke.

The comforting angel is a Byzantine motif, not found in Ottonian painting. The cup, a figure of speech in the gospel, is literally represented here, an innovation by the Alexis Master, and only found incidentally in one Byzantine text. The cup becomes an important feature of late medieval iconography with ‘the prayer of the chalice’ becoming a part of the Gethsemane story.

The Byzantine tradition depicts the Gethsemane episode in one scene: Christ is shown both alone in prayer and again, as a continuous narrative, rebuking the sleeping disciples. (AP, 61, 89, pl. 113) In the Albani cycle, the disciples are depicted in this scene as a foil to Christ’s isolation at the top of the page, and they are repeated in the rebuking scene on the following page (p40).

Christ’s prayer with the chalice and angel is depicted in the initial to psalm 101, p270.

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