Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Meditation on the Passion – The Instruments of the Passion


Instruments of the Passion of Christ
From a Prayer Book
French (Paris), c. 1485-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H 3, fol. 13r


In 2012 I examined the image of the Man of Sorrows, one of the greatest and most wide spread of the images related to the Passion of Jesus Christ in the medieval world.  This year I have edited that original article and added many new images of the simplest forms which this iconography took as it developed from its introduction, from the Byzantine Empire, in thirteenth-century Italy until it largely died out in the seventeenth century.  It is my plan to continue to introduce commentary on the development of this image in Western Europe, where the simple image was succeeded by a variety of what one might call visual tropes not seen in the Byzantine realm.  The first “trope”1 I will look at is that of the Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion.  However, before I examine this theme I would like to make a digression of sorts and discuss the Instruments of the Passion.  This is not an idea that is very familiar in contemporary Christian spirituality and may need some explanation.






The Instruments of the Passion


The Instruments of the Passion, also known as the Arma Christi (the weapons of Christ or the arms, in the heraldic sense, of Christ), are the objects used in the torture and killing of Jesus from the time he was betrayed by Judas to His death on the Cross.  They include such objects as:  the whips, the ropes, the column against which He was scourged, the crown of thorns, the cross, the nails, the hammer, the inscription above His head, the ladder, the sponge on a reed, the lance that was used to pierce His side, the pliers used to extract the nails from His dead flesh.  Sometimes the crowing rooster, His robes, or even the dice with which the Roman soldiers cast lots for His clothing are included.  

Instruments of the Passion
From the Sacramentary of Gellone
French, c. 775-800
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 12048, fol. 76v
This is one of the earliest pictures I found which depicted instruments 
of the Passion.  Here, there is the Cross (and those of the thieves)
plus the nails.
Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours (Fragment with
a Life of St. Margaret)
French (Saint-Omer), c. 1320-1330
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M754.105r

























Sometimes the basin and pitcher used by Pilate to wash his hands of Jesus’ blood are also included.  In some cases, the heads or hands of the torturers or other actors in the Passion (Pilate, Herod, the High Priest, etc.) are depicted, rather surreally floating in the air.  Occasionally, the veil of Veronica, with its infused image of Jesus’ face also appears. And, sometimes, the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas for betraying Him also figure in the list.


Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy
Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
French (Verdun), c. 1370-1380
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 90, fol. 224v
Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy
Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
French (Verdun), c. 1370-1380
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 90, fol. 225r























Instruments of the Passion
From the Breviary of Martin of Aragon
Catalan, c. 1398-1430
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Rothschild 2529, fol. 215


Boucicaut Master, Arma Christi
From Hours of Marechal Jean de Boucicaut
French (Paris) , c. 1405-1408
Paris, Musee Jacquemart-Andre
MS 2

Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Dutch (Utrecht), c. 1455-1460
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 135 E 40, fol. 111r
Arms of Christ Between the Blessed Virgin
and St. John the Evangelist
From Blason des armes de notre redemption
French, c. 1475-1500
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 14357, fol. 2

Arms of Christ Between the Blessed Virgin
and St. John the Evangelist
From Blason of the Arms of Our Redemption
French, c. 1475-1500
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 5939, fol. 1
















Tapestry with the Arma Christi
Flemish, c. 1475-1550
New  York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection

Glass Roundel with Instruments of the Passion
English, c. 1490-1510
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection
Workshop of Hieronymous Bosch, Instruments of the Passion
Dutch, c. 1496-1500
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
Crucifixion with Instruments of the Passion in the Margins
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Antwerp), c. 1500-10
Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 128 G 34, fol. 13r

Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (LIege), c. 1500-1525
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 133 D 11, fol. 18r




























Leonard Limosin, Crucifixion with  Scenes from the Passion
and Angels Holding Instruments of the Passion Passion
with Portraits of Francois I and Eleanor of Austria
French, 1553
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Leonard Limosin, Resurrection with the Agony in the
Garden, the Meeting with Mary Magdalene and
Angels Holding Instruments of the Passion,
with Portraits of Henri II and Catherine de Medici
French, 1553
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Instruments of the Passion in Pictographs
From the Codex Mexicanus
Mexican (Aztec), c. 1560-1600
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Mexicain 23-24, fol. 52-53
This remarkable image shows that, scarcely 50 years from the arrival of the Conquisitadores in Mexico, the traditional images of the Instruments of the Passion were current in Mexican native culture.
Jean Antoine Belleteste, Instruments of the Passion
French, 1761
Dieppe, Chateau Musee
Francesco Tanadei, Isntruments of the Passion
Italian, c. Late 18th-Early 19th Century
Private Collection

























Campbell Brick and Tile Company, Instruments of the Passion
English, c. 1875-1882
London, British Museum

Angels with the Instruments of the Passion

The “arms” are often shown held by angels.  What is probably the most famous of such depictions is the grouping of ten statues that stand on the famous Ponte Sant’Angelo2 which spans the Tiber between the Castel Sant’Angelo and the Centro Storico of Rome.  Executed between 1678 and 1682, by Bernini and his assistants, they are probably entirely puzzling to the majority of visitors.  Each of the ten holds one “instrument”.  The two statures personally carved by Bernini himself were moved indoors long ago and replaced by faithful copies.  The two originals stand today in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, located between the Piazza di Spagna and the Via del Tritone, and just across the street from Bernini’s final residence on Via di Capo le Case.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Angel with the Crown of Thorns
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Angel with the Superscription
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte



























Workshop of Gianlorenzo Bernini
Angel with the Column
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo
Workshop of Gianlorenzo Bernini
Angel with the Column
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo



























Workshop of Gianlorenzo Bernini
Angel with the Cross
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo
Workshop of Gianlorenzo Bernini
Angel with the Nails
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo




























Workshop of Gianlorenzo Bernini
Angel with the Robe and the Dice
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo
Workshop of Gianlorenzo Bernini
Angel with the Veil of Veronica
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo




























Workshop of Gianlorenzo Bernini
Angel with the Sponge
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo
Workshop of Gianlorenzo Bernini
Angel with the Lance
Italian, c. 1668-1671
Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo























The angels on Ponte Sant’ Angelo are a self-contained ensemble, chosen to remind pilgrims of the sacred nature of their visit and to advertise some of the treasures of the Vatican, for several of the objects are believed to be located in the Basilica of Saint Peter.  Among these are the lance and the veil of Veronica. 

Other images of angels with the Arma Christ also offer them to the viewer as objects for contemplation.
Master of Guillebert de Mets, Angel with the Arma Christi
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Ghent), c. 1415-1425
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 46, fol. 103v
Two Angels with Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1490-1500
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 14, fol 109r




Angels with Instruments of the Passion
Flemish, First Half 16th Century
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
Lazzaro Bastiani, Madonna and Child with Angels Holding Instruments of the Passion
Italian, 15th-16th Century
Berlin, Gemaeldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin 
Jean Bourdichon, Angels Holding the Crown of Thorns
From Grandes heures d'Anne de Bretagne
French (Tours), c. 1503-08
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9474, 211v
Simon Bening, Christ Child with Angels Holding
Instruments of the Passion
From the Prayer Book of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg
Flemish,  c. 1525-1530
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 19, fol. 31v



























'



Pietro da Cortona, Angels with Instruments of the Passion
Italian, c. 1633-1634
Rome, Santa Maria in Vallicella

The Instruments of the Passion at the Last Judgment

However, most of the time the angels with the ensemble appear in representations of the Last Judgment.  In these images the Instruments act as the record of the sufferings endured by Jesus in His Passion. They also demonstrate the validity of His judgment on humanity because, through them, He won salvation for the human race.  Those souls which rejected the salvation offered to them have refused to accept His sacrifice and have, therefore, condemned themselves. 

The Second Coming of Christ
From the Benedictional of Aethelwold
English, c. 963-984
London, British Library
MS Additional 49598, fol. 9v
The Last Judgment
From the Westminster Psalter
English (London), c. 1275-1300
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 10433, fol. 9




























Angels with Instruments of the Passion
Italian, 13th Century
Florence, Cathedral Baptistery

The Last Judgment
From Jugement et des XV signes
French (Northern), c. 1250-1300
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 3516, fol. 154v
The Resurrection of Dead
From Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Flemish (Hainaut), c. 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16251, fol. 52




















Last Judgment
From Breviari d'Armor
Catalan, c. 1375
London, British Library
MS Yates Thompson 31, fol. 174v
Boucicaut Master, Last Judgment
From Heures de Jeanne Bessonnelle
French (Paris), c. 1400-25
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1161, fol. 137

The Last Judgment
From De Civitate Dei by St. Augustine of Hippo
French (Paris), c. 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 173, fol. 2
Master of the Echevinage and His Workshop, Last Judgment
From De Civitate Dei by St. Augustine of Hippo
French (Rouen), c. 1475-1500
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 28,fol. 2

Michelangelo Buonarotti, Last Judgment (detail of upper portion)
Italian, c. 1537-1541
Vatican City, Sistine Chapel
Most people are likely so fixated on the central drama of Christ's appearance amid the saints and the individual dramas of salvation and damnation being worked out in the lower portion of the picture that they probably fail to notice the angels struggling with the Instruments of the Passion in the upper portion.  On the top left the angels bring the Cross and the Crown of Thorns, while at the right they struggle with an immense Column.
To the materialist mind it may seem strange to exalt and venerate such cruel objects as nails, thorns, whips and to even some Christians it may seem distasteful.  However, it is through these terrible items and through the injury and pain that they caused to one Person that Evil was overcome and a pathway opened to the Divine.  Through them mankind was saved from its own inclination to sin.  Viewed in this way one can say that they are indeed objects worthy of respect, veneration and even love.

© M. Duffy, 2018

  1. Here “trope” is used in the original sense of “a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages”.  Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trope. Accessed 23 Mar. 2018.
  2. For information on the Ponte Sant’Angelo see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponte_Sant%27Angelo

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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