Mary Curtis Webb (d. 1987) spent many years researching the literary sources of a group of 12th-century sculptures in English churches. The carvings - above doorways, upon fonts - are rich in symbolism and dramatic narrative. They are difficult to make sense of today, since the early Christian beliefs which they depict have long been abandoned by the Church.
At the time, texts held in monastic libraries and studied by churchmen would have been widely communicated through the spoken word and through visual imagery. The central theme in the carvings is the ancient Alexandrian Ransom Theory - how God, through offering a ransom to the Devil in the fleshly form of Jesus Christ, tricked Satan into submission, thus saving humankind from the burden of Adam's original sin.
Who wears the wings? St Michael or Christ?
Why is Christ fighting with his Cross?
Answers may be found in an early Christian theory of atonement.
“A remarkable work of scholarship, fascinating, scholarly and convincing , whose conclusions will be of interest alike to theologians, historians and students of medieval architecture. I commend it to as wide a readership as possible." Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, Faculty of Theology, Oxford, 2012
Read in full:
by Mary Curtis Webb
courtesy of the University of Ghent