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Lambach Abbey - Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

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.

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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.

ArtWay Visual Meditation 31 January 2021