Tuesday, 6 April 2021

An Eastern Easter

Every Easter I look around for any images of the Resurrection that catch my attention. Of Western traditional artists I like Titian's "Noli Me Tangere" in the National Gallery in London. But for the sheer dynamism of Easter I have not found anything to beat the Anastasis in the 'Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora', in Istanbul. Details can be seen via the link.

It was in 1995 that  I joined a tour of Turkey that included, of course, the great city of Istanbul, formerly Byzantium, formerly Constantinople. On a free afternoon I got a taxi to the Chora Church that dates back to the fourth century. Like Saint Sophia it later became a mosque and, later again, a museum. Layers of whitewash were removed to reveal astonishing mosaics and frescoes. Like Saint Sophia, it has been returned to a mosque, just last year I think. To the right of the main altar is a chapel believed to have been used in funerals, and there, over the altar is the Anastasis.

The Byzantine tradition of representing the Resurrection is to show Jesus descending to Hell, trampling on Satan and releasing those who are waiting, like Adam and Eve, Moses etc. This is a powerful, energetic Jesus, not like the rather washed out one we sometimes see in Western art. I know he's been dead for a while, but the Resurrection is about life!


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