UP AND ONWARDS: The Iconography of the Ascension in Art through the ages

 It is the fortieth day after Resurrection. We are back to the square where Jesus entered into His Passion – The Mount of Olives. At this moment, Jesus having culminated His earthly life is now passing from the world to His Father. He has assigned to His disciples the task of announcing the Gospel and has promised to send His Helper. Amid astonishment and gasps He is then lifted from their sight.

As the apostles stare into space, their astounded gaze is interrupted by the address of the heavenly beings. ‘Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at heavens? This Jesus whom you saw ascending into heaven will return as you saw Him go.’ (Acts 1: 6 – 14). 

The theme of the Ascension naturally inspired art. Paintings dating back to the 5th century often depicted the episode in two zones: the earthy and the divine. While in the spiritual sphere Christ is portrayed ascending into heaven, the main characters of the terrestrial sphere included the disciples, the Blessed Virgin Mary and of course the angels.

The depiction of the Ascension was subject to interpretation and iconography. Through today’s article we will journey through history and its varied frames of the Ascension bound by fantastic forms, features and illustrations.

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