Images of Rosslyn Chapel » The Upside Down Angel?
This carving is often considered to be a rendition of Lucifer (Satan) who has been cast out of Heaven by G-d and is on his way down (hence being upside-down) into Hell. This interpretation is well know in a variety of other medieval sources which showed the expulsion of Lucifer, and those who supported him, from Heaven. One of the best known comes from the Tres Riches Heures, a Book of Hours, commissioned by Jean, Duc de Berry in 1413, it was painted by two brother with the surname Limbourg. It was unfinished at the time their (and the Duc’s) death in 1416. The Duc Charles I de Savoie, subsequently commissioned Jean Colombe to complete the painting of the manuscript between 1485-1489.
This beautifully painted image shows G-d at the top, fiery red in respect of his anger. He is flanked by his faithful angels. Below are another group of angels expelling the ‘fallen ones’ from heaven into the fire pit at the bottom which is the artist’s depiction of Hell. At the bottom of the image, entering Hell head first, is Satan. This vision of The Fall frequently shows Satan head down and tied up. In this image he appears to be bound by a rope just as in the carving, above, at Rosslyn Chapel.
The image to the right is a close-up of Satan entering Hell head first. The ropes used to bind him can be seen looped around his chest.
The carving of Satan being cast into Hell in Rosslyn Chapel is, therefore, a fairly common depiction of a major event in the Christian belief system. We are already aware that Rosslyn Chapel was built as a Collegiate Church and so symbolism and purpose come together.
This does lead to a number of questions. Rosslyn Chapel has been claimed by a variety of authors to be either a Pagan place of worship, a Jewish Temple (sometimes said to be unfinished) or a Masonic building. Oddly none appear to claim that it is Christian in origin despite the existence of evidence, such as this carving, which can be confirmed as being Christian. o put the argument the other way around; if Rosslyn Chapel is not Christian why does it have such definite Christian symbolism within it?
To be continued…