Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mandorla: Nutty treat, or angelic aura?

Hey!  What are you doing this Saturday?


Nah, how about you go to this week’s Shock of the New screening, “The Future that Was,” at 11a.m. at the Zinema 2!  We’ve got Fahti Benzer, professor at UMD, speaking after the show.  So come on down March 31st to have fun and get cultured, all for free.

Ready for the vocab word of the week? Me too! Let’s go!

man•dor•la noun
Also called: vesica  (in painting, sculpture, etc) an almond-shaped area of light, usually surrounding the resurrected Christ or the Virgin at the Assumption

Mandorla in Italian translates literally as “almond.”  You can’t make delicious nutty cookies with it, though.  When two circles overlap, an almond shape forms in the middle (think Venn diagram).  This overlapping symbolizes the meshing of Heaven and Earth.  The Mandorla was used mainly in early Christian art, and also Buddhist art to reference this unification of opposite forces.

The very first mandorla to be used in Christian art appears around figures of the Old Testament in the mosaics from Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.  The scene shows Abraham entertaining the Three Strangers who are, unbeknownst to Abraham, actually angels.

It looks a little archaic, but that mandorla sure is giving off some angelic vibes.

Another great example comes from the Monastery of Chora in Istanbul.  In the apse of the arekklesion (or funerary chapel will suffice, if you, like I, cannot pronounce that) is a fresco showing a scene of the traditional Byzantine Anastasis (the Resurrection of Christ).  It shows Jesus lookin’ pretty darn good, and not even a little bit dead.


He looks way more majestic with that white light emanating from him.

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