You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. Mark Twain

Lambach Abbey: Healing of a Possessed Man

ArtWay Visual Meditation 31 January 2021

Lambach Abbey: Healing of a Possessed Man

The start of Jesus’ Ministry

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

This old Romanesque fresco is located in the church of the Benedictine abbey in Lambach, Austria. It is part of a series of 23 frescos that together picture the epiphany or the manifestation of Jesus as Lord. Dating from 1089, they belong to the oldest Romanesque frescos North of the Alps.

Jesus takes in a central position in this symmetric composition, while the visitors of the synagogue and the town of Capernaum surround him. To the right of him there are twelve men. It could be the twelve disciples, although in Mark’s Gospel we have only thus far read about the calling of Simon, Andrew, John and James. On his left side there are fourteen men, headed by the Pharisees. Looking at their gestures, we see that all are impressed by Jesus’ new teaching and his healing of the possessed man who lies at his feet in convulsions. Do you see the evil spirit, that has just left his body, flee away?

The artist has put Jesus majestically higher than all the others in the middle. In this way he portrays the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as preacher and healer.


31 Januari 2021, Year B, Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Scripture readings for this Sunday:
Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
Psalm 11
(1 Cor. 8:1b-13)
Mark 1:21-28

Anonymous artist, Church of the Benedictine Abbey in Lambach, Austria: Healing of a Possessed Man, fresco, ca 1080.

The Abbey of Lambach (Stift Lambach) is a Benedictine Abbey in Upper Austria. It was possibly founded in 1054 by St Adalbero (1045–90), Bishop of Würzburg, and has been a Benedictine foundation since 1056. Of the Romanesque church only the westwork survives, which was built in 1056–89 but was later blocked off by a Baroque organ loft and buttressing wall. In 1957 it was discovered that behind these structural additions there was a complete series of wall paintings, which date from before the time of the consecration of the church in 1089. They are among the most important survivals of 11th-century painting in northern Europe. The space, surmounted by three domical groin vaults, is covered with frescoes on both the vaults and the walls. These frescoes are in a late Ottonian-Byzantine style. There are three cycles with scenes taken from the Old and New Testaments: Epiphany, history of the Magi; Theophany, the appearance or manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God; and miracles as Testimonium Dei.

Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker is ArtWay’s editor-in-chief.



1. ARTWAY – The meditation of today is the first in a series of shorter meditations written for one of the Sundays of the three-year cycle of the Christian calendar. Spread out over this year we will intersperse the usual visual meditations with 6 – 8 of these shorter discussions. Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker wrote these originally for Laetare, a Dutch magazine about liturgy and art in the church. 

2. ED RUSCHA AND RELIGION – Made in USA Ed Ruscha An American Perspective – by Revd Jonathan Evens. “Ruscha has said that there are things he is constantly looking at that he feels ‘should be elevated to greater status, almost to philosophical status or to a religious status.’ It is for that reason that he takes things out of context or isolates a word or image: ‘It’s the concept of taking something that’s not subject matter and making it subject matter.’ The reference to religion here is significant in the context of this exhibition and Ruscha’s praxis. Ruscha has stated, ‘I am a confirmed atheist today, but the church helped me get where I am.’ By exploring his childhood influences, this exhibition is one of the first to take serious note of Ruscha’s statement; Three Catholics: Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha & Robert Mapplethorpe at Cheim Reid in 1998 being another.” Read more

3. NEW RESEARCH PROGRAM – The Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion  has launched The Art of Discernment, which explores how the arts nurture, disrupt, or otherwise transform the way that theology students understand their sense of calling as spiritual leaders. With partners from Duke University and the University of Maine, they are pursuing an innovative research program that combines experiential learning with ethnographic and empirical research to assess the cognitive value of arts-based theological education. 

ArtWay is a website with resources for congregations and individuals concerned about linking art and faith.


Other recent meditations:
- February 2021: Hansa Versteeg: Omen
- February 2021: Paula Modersohn-Becker: Old Peasant Woman
- February 2021: Petra Zantingh: Watchful Trees
- February 2021: Duo Empfangshalle

For more Visual Meditations, see under Artists