Wednesday, March 03, 2010

40 Days of Lent: Day Fifteen

Ghostly Hands Wave Arian Christianity Good-Bye

Arian Christianity was a branch in the first few hundred years of Christianity that argued that Christ, while important, was not the equal of the God that created the universe.

Many of the barbarians that sacked the Roman empire were, in fact, Arian Christians, which, in addition to their destructive tendencies, put them at odds with Roman Catholic Christianity. In fact, this argument over the precise nature of Christ's divinity was one of the reasons for the Council of Nicea, which determined the belief structure of Catholicism for almost 2000 years.

Once Arian Christianity was defeated, traces of it were wiped out even from churches built to practice the faith, which leads to the interesting moment in the second episode of the BBC's History of Christianity when Diarmaid MacCulloch visits a form Arian Christian church. The barbarian king Theodoric has been replace in the church mosaics by a gold field and his courtiers have been replaced by curtains.

But whoever did the censoring didn't do a perfect job, because as MacCulloch points out, you can still see their hands on the columns in the mosaics.

I love these ghostly hands, reaching out of the darkness. They're like something from a surrealist painting, or, had they been in black and white drawings rather than multi-color mosaics, like something you'd see in an Edward Gorey story.

I love how they beckon us into the darkness, into the past. "Step into the dark" they say "and we'll tell you what we believed before we were erased from our own church." Join us.


Iva said...

Wonderful pictures! Interesting text! I love your 40 days of Lent blog.

the hanged man said...

Aw, thank you! Much appreciated!