The "Latin Diptych" in Milan's Cathedral Museum
Carolingian, 11th century
Museum of the Cathedral of Milan
This interesting selection of scenes from the Passion and Resurrection of Christ omits the Crucifixion and includes some episodes pictured less often in this kind of sequence.
The panel reads from top to bottom. The first scene follows the letter of John 13:4-5: with a towel tied around his waist, Jesus washes the apostles' feet in a basin. Most of them look out at the viewer, a few look at Christ, and one, surely Judas, fixes his gaze on the building in the background. Resembling a church, the building may be the Temple, where Jesus will be judged by the Sanhedrin later that night. The tree with twelve leaves to the right may be an allusion to what Jesus tells the apostles on the same occasion, "I am the vine: you the branches (John 15:5)."
Directly below is a pair of scenes, the arrest of Jesus on the left and Pilate washing his hands on the right. The same tree with the twelve leaves is in the background, to the left of what is presumably the praetorium where Pilate will judge the case.
There follows a second pair of scenes illustrating the death of Judas (Matthew 27:3-5). On the left, one of the chief priests refuses the thirty pieces of silver they had paid Judas to betray Jesus. On the right, he hangs himself.
Fianlly, at the bottom of the panel, four guards are set to watch over the tomb, which in the iconogaphical tradition of the time is patterned on the Aedicula in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem.
The tomb at the top of the left side provides continuity with the bottom of the right side. The two Marys visit and find an angel seated on the stone that had closed the tomb (Matthew 28:1-7). His raised hand signifies speech: "Fear not you; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen…." On the left, the guards are "struck with terror and became as dead men." The terror is pictured in the one running away, and behind him is the face of the one "as dead."
Below this scene is the illustration of Matthew 28:8-10. The two Marys "went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy…. And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet, and adored him."
The next scene down pictures Jesus' appearance to the apostles in Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23. It is closer to the latter, because the apostles do not look "troubled and frightened" as in Luke. John's narrative then continues with the "doubting Thomas" episode (verses 24-29) pictured at the bottom.
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Read more about Jesus' last supper, arrest, trials, and resurrection.
Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.