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Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53; John 19:38-40

The scene takes place in a domed edifice. Christ’s naked body, wrapped in a transparent shroud is lowered into a strigillated sarcophagus. Mary stands behind the sarcophagus bending over her son, her arched back parallel to the dome above. Joseph of Arimathea holds Christ’s shoulders while two younger men are at his feet, one of them, probably Nicodemus, holding a jar.

Although the scene appears to take place within a building, the columns are all behind the characters which suggests it is more like a stage set, the ‘monumentum’ mentioned in liturgical plays (Young, 1933, I, 309). Although the gospels clearly say the tomb was cut into the rock, a stone sarcophagus begins to appear in western depictions from the 10th century. The sarcophagus also served as an essential and convenient prop in liturgical plays.

A close parallel for this scene is found on the wall paintings of St Angelo in Formis, Italy. It shows the domed structure, the strigillated sarcophagus, the wrapped body, but Mary is placed on the right, by Christ’s head. The position of her body parallel to Christ, as a lamentation, is found in the Byzantine Vatican MS. Vat. Gr. 1156, f194v.

Mary’s lamentation at the entombment derives from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, popular in the Byzantine church. (AP, 72, pl 112 c and f).

Quire 3.
Thread or stitch holes for protective curtain

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