Mary and St. John the Baptist praying to Christ at the Last Judgement
Year mention: 1617
Last Judgement
Not corresponding with Church teaching/dogma

Incorrect depiction of the interaction between the saints and the people who are damned

Molanus, Johannes
Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsaanen - Crucifixion, ca. 1507-1510
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam,

In book 2, chapter 23, Molanus deals with examples of images which could lead to dangerous errors among the uneducated. The second case Molanus addresses in chapter 23 of book two is centred around the Last Judgement and the possibility of mediating for the dead. In the Middle Ages, it was a rather commonly held idea that the living could assist the souls of the dead through their praying to saints or that they could ask saints to intercede after their own death. Many different images of several types of media, from prints to stained glass have been preserved and in great lines they overlap in content and composition, consisting of Jesus sitting on his throne with Mother Mary and St.John the Baptist praying at his feet, often surrounded by elements associated with the Last Judgement, such as the angels playing the trumpets and the dead rising from their graves. This corresponds to the brief description by Molanus, who uses Augustine and Jerome to underpin his rejection of this belief and the respective depiction in art, since both Church Fathers stated that no one, not even the saints, can interfere during the Last Judgement and prayers can only be used to help each other during life.

“Similarly, some people place the Blessed Virgin and John the Baptist at prayer in the Last Judgement. The conception of this painting seems to be similar to the proposition condemned by Augustine, about the salvation of the damned being effected by the prayers and intercession of the saints, and to contradict directly what Gratian, whose source is Jerome, says: ‘We know that in the present time we can help each other by prayer, but when we appear before the tribunal of Christ, neither Job, nor Daniel, nor Noah will be able to pray for anyone, and each one will have to bear his burden.'”

“Item extremo iudicio aliqui apponunt Beatam Virginem et Baptistam orantes, quae pingendi ratio videtur sapere damnatum ab Augustino dogma de damnandorum salvatione per preces et intercessionem sanctorum, et directe repugnare illi quod ex Hieronymo citare se dicit Gratianus, in praesenti saeculo scimus orationibus inuicem nos posse iuuari cum autem ante tribunal Christi venerimus, nec Iob nec Daniël nec Noë rogare posse pro quoquam, sed unamquemque portare onus suum.”

Quoted Authorities

St. Augustine, De civitate dei, 21, ch. 18, ch. 24 St. Hieronymus, Cause 13, quast. 2, book 3, ch. 6 to Galatians Ezechiel 14, 20

Holy Virgin, John the Baptist, Last Judgement

Date mention

Historical Location

Iconclass Number

Molanus, De historia sanctarum imaginum et picturarum (1617), book 2, ch. 23, 89-90

Molanus 1996, 186.

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