Christ enthroned between the Sun and Moon

The third largest church in Assisi, after the Basilicas of San Francesco and Santa Chiara, is the church of San Rufino, which is actually the Cathedral (the bishop’s seat). The present church is a Romanesque building, construction of which was begun in 1140. This is the church in which Saint Francis was baptised.

Unfortunately the interior was completely remodelled in the 16th century in late Renaissance style but the Romanesque façade remains. In the central portal, a relief above the main doors shows Christ enthroned between the sun and the moon. The best time to take a photograph of this is late on a summer afternoon at around 7pm, when the sun has come round far enough to illuminate the relief but not before the evening shadow starts creeping up the façade.

San Rufino - Christ enthroned between the sun and moon
This is nothing to do with Sir Brother Sun and Sister Moon of St Francis’s Canticle. In the relief, Christ holds a book. This is the book of judgement (Rev 5) and this tells us that this is a depiction of Christ in judgement over the world. When Christ opened the sixth seal of the book, the sun was darkened and the moon turned to blood – the same signs that took place at the crucifixion. Depictions of this verse in illuminated manuscripts show Christ enthroned above the sun and moon. Similarly, Orthodox icons of the crucifixion show the darkened sun and red moon on either side of Christ.

Despite this, the symbolism feels alchemical. Christ’s central position showing how he exists at the balance between the sun and moon. As scripture says, in Christ there is no male and female.

Praise him, sun and moon,
Priase him, shining stars
– Psalm 148:3

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~ by scalambra on July 5, 2013.

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