Two wings or six

Carmen figuratum, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 12th century.

Carmen figuratum, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 12th century.

This carmen figuratum concerns the centuries-long iconographic dispute as to whether angels were to be depicted as described in Exodus or Ezekiel.

The text atop the illumination is from “On Cherubim and Seraphim Concerning the Writings on the Cross and Their Meaning” by Rabanus Maurus. Admittedly, Ezekiel’s version is rather complicated.

Ezekiel 10: 1-12 (NRSV):

“Then I looked, and above the dome that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in form resembling a throne. He said to the man clothed in linen, ‘Go within the wheel-work underneath the cherubim; fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.’ He went in as I looked on. Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house when the man went in; and a cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord rose up from the cherub to the threshold of the house; the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the glory of the Lord. The sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.

When he commanded the man clothed in linen, ‘Take fire from within the wheel-work, from among the cherubim’, he went in and stood beside a wheel. And a cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, took some of it, and put it into the hands of the man clothed in linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings.

I looked, and there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like gleaming beryl. And as for their appearance, the four looked alike, something like a wheel within a wheel. When they moved, they moved in any of the four directions without veering as they moved; but in whatever direction the front wheel faced, the others followed without veering as they moved. Their entire body, their rims, their spokes, their wings, and the wheels—the wheels of the four of them—were full of eyes all round. As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing ‘the wheel-work’. Each one had four faces: the first face was that of the cherub, the second face was that of a human being, the third that of a lion, and the fourth that of an eagle.”

(Image from Marco Bussagli’s Angels, 2007.)

2 responses to “Two wings or six

  1. Pingback: More wheels within wheels | New Gottland

  2. Looks like a banana angel.

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