Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas

Many of you know that throughout the year I keep my eyes open looking for some original depictions of the Christmas scene to be used at the end of the year. This season instead of one, I have chosen two, an old and a modern presentation of the birth of Christ.

The first one is a photo I took during my "homage to Kleist trip" at St. Mary in Frankfurt on the river Oder, a church situated near Heinrich's birth place. The church windows were under Russian custody until they returned them in 2008. Three impressive strips of colored glass in Gothic arches show the story of salvation. In the middle window is the story of Christ, on the left hand side run in parallel the usual precursor scenes taken from the Old Testament alluding to the coming Messiah, whilst on the right hand side medieval legends about the Antichrist are woven in a texture of images.

Middle window (Photo Wikipedia)
Jesus had announced the Antichrist according to St. Mark 13:
21 And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him;
22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.

In the Middle Ages pious story tellers spread legends about the Antichrist who is generally depicted looking like a teaching Jesus guided by the devil.

The Antichrist guided by the devil (Photo Wikipedia)
Back to Christ's birth scenes. The following picture is an impossible freehand photo I took as close as I could get standing legs wide apart in the transept using the ten power zoom of my Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ10. As it should be: new born Jesus is in the center of the picture closely watched by ox and donkey while Maria strangely turns her head away from the scene. Joseph as usual in old illustrations is a somewhat uninvolved bystander.

The next picture in the left church window scanned from a poster shows the birth of the Antichrist.

For Luther the Antichrist was personified in the Pope. According to the Apocalypse the Antichrist on the see of St. Peter means that the end of the world is near. In fact, Luther during the last years of his life developed strong eschatology ideas: Mundus ... mox mutandus, Amen (The world will soon vanish, Amen)

The pope as Antichrist. Woodcut from the time of Luther
Enough of medieval theology. Let us go back to our times.

The second Christmas photo I took in Baden-Baden when, following the Kiefer exhibition, I visited the local Weihnachtsmarkt. It was not just jingle bells and those booths selling Christmas decorations or seasonal food and drinks. Some lanes were lined with paintings by Baden-Baden school classes imagining the Christmas scene. One of those pictures in the form of a Gothic church window is in jolly contrast to what I saw in Frankfurt's St. Mary. While Joseph is sketched in the old tradition as the somewhat absent-minded old man Mary is hugging little Jesus. He likes it and thanks her with his most charming smile.

Keeping this comforting and touching scene in my mind, I wish you all a 

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

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