The Last Judgment
Medieval Last Judgment images are fairly easy to recognize. In the typical example shown above, Christ sits in Heaven, enthroned in a mandorla while below him the dead arise from their tombs and angels conduct the just on his right up to Heaven and the unjust on his left through a great maw into the fires of Hell. The judgment, the fire, and the division into right and left come from Matthew 25:31-46, the rising of the dead from I Corinthians 15:52.
Another traditional detail is the blowing of one or more trumpets, derived from I Thessalonians 4:16-17. Sometimes we also see St. Michael weighing the souls on a balance scale while a demon tries to cheat by pulling on one of the plates, as in the third picture at right.
In paleo-Christian art Christ simply sits or stands between a flock of sheep on his right and goats on his left, making a gesture to represent his judgment. (See the first picture at right.) The sheep and goats are from Matthew 25.
Prepared in 2016 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University
In the Last Judgment tympanum at Conques, France (12th century) Christ's hand gestures welcome the saved on one side and reject the damned on the other. For a detailed discussion of this work, follow this link.