|After breaking down the Gates of Hell Saint Michael, detail (Crivelli, 1476)
and crushing the hideous looking Devil guarding the door, Christ greets the just, the patriarchs and the prophets of the Old Testament. He holds out His hand to a grey-bearded Adam kneeling alongside Eve, to Abel with his shepherd’s crook, to John the Baptist, King David and Moses.
| In Carlo Crivelli’s 1476 St. Michael, part of a polyptych that comprised the high altarpiece for San Domenico in Ascoli Piceno, we see the fallen angel Lucifer — in the form of a semi-human dragon — who was once head of the Order of Virtues but who lost favor with God and was expelled from Heaven. In this depiction, which occurred frequently in Medieval art, St. Michael, representing Christ in battle with the Antichrist, wears a coat of armor and holds a spear over the horned, winged and clawed Devil.
According to the Biblical story, the powerful angel Lucifer and his followers rebelled against God. The archangel Michael, as the first to refuse Lucifer’s temptation to join the Rebellion, was appointed captain of the Heavenly Host, God’s loyal army. The two sides battled, and Satan was defeated and cast out from Heaven.
|St. Michael, seen here as an archangel with wings, stands victorious and holding a raised sword, prepared to kill the squirming Devil under his feet.
Satan was, of course, allowed to live and to set up his own kingdom in Hell from which he sent other devils to prowl the earth for converts. Medieval art also depicts Satan’s fellow rebel angels acquiring tails, claws and other demonic features as they tumble from Heaven. This was the origin of the demonic world, which existed for one purpose only: to tempt humans to turn away from God.
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