The Overlapping Contexts of the Last Judgment at the Monastery of Saint John in Müstair, Switzerland

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International Congress on Medieval Studies

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Kalamazoo, MI

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The main church of the Monastery of Saint John in Müstair, Switzerland preserves medieval art’s earliest surviving monumental Last Judgment. Various elements of the large-scale composition connect to the broader pictorial tradition, especially of the eastern Mediterranean, but locally-circulating texts better explain its original meaning, if not as conceived then certainly as experienced. The Rule of Benedict provides one framework for understanding the monastic function of the Last Judgment, while sermons contained in a local monastic compilation illuminate its pastoral potential. Christ and his Apostles provide exemplars for the abbot and his monks, at the same time that the process and its outcome visually caution the lay worshipper in order to enforce codes of Christian comportment. Even as monastic practice and pastoral obligation converge in the Last Judgment, the greater import of the composition in the experience of the lay worshipper may link the origins of monumental Last Judgment imagery to a pastoral imperative.


Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Medieval Studies

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