Faces of Christ

Agence France-Presse 2000
reproduced in NY Times 9 Feb 2003
In 2000 I saw an article by a man who was positive that he knew what Jesus looked like. The reason: every picture of Christ that he saw looked like the same person.

When I was a child, I had exactly the same feeling. The southern Presbyterian church in which I was raised was not much for religious pictures (there were none at all in the sanctuary) but a certain picture of Christ appeared in some Sunday School materials. He could be the same man/being shown in this picture that was used as a backdrop during the 2000 US presidential campaign.

But when I became a man and began to travel, I started seeing all sorts of pictures. When I saw the article by the man with certainty, we were living in Brussels. A few months later we made a visit to Italy and discovered in Rome a special exhibit titled "The Face of Christ." There were over 100 images, most created prior to 700. In no way could they be considered all of the same face. Photography was forbidden at that exhibit, but it gave me the incentive to start making a collection of my own images. Most are photos I took in Italy and Belgium, with a few pictures I found on the web. (You can click on most of them for a larger image.)

About the only pattern I can determine in these pictures is that the image of Christ at any given time and place is a reflection of the norms of the person who created the picture.

Thumbs/tn_400dorset roman.jpg
Before 400, Roman, Dorset, England (now in British Museum)
Thumbs/tn_510chapel St Andrew.jpg
About 510, Chapel of St Andrew, Ravenna
Thumbs/tn_542apollinaris new.jpg
About 542, Sant' Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
Thumbs/tn_545st vitalis .jpg
About 545, San Vitale, Ravenna
About 545, San Vitale, Ravenna
Thumbs/tn_1175 danish .jpg
About 1175, Denmark
About 1200, Duomo, Pisa
Thumbs/tn_1250Lucca San frediano1.jpg
About 1250, San Frediano, Lucca
1262, Byzantine
About 1480, Denmark
About 1500, Flemish
About 1500 by Raphael, Italy
About 1510 by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican
1517 Venice, "Il Cristo Redentore" by Marco Basaiti
1525 - 1530, Flemish
Thumbs/tn_1540bru cath.jpg
About 1540, Brussels
Thumbs/tn_1600 rome.jpg
About 1600, Rome
About 1750, Ethiopia, in National Gallery of African Art, Washington
About 1800, Ethiopia, in National Gallery of African Art, Washington
1851 by Albert Roberti, Brussels
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Modern, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints sale item
Modern artist, sale item of Church of Saint Michael on the web
Favorite image in Roman Catholic Church materials

For a different aspect on this question, check Helmut Felzmann's web site on the Shroud of Turin.

last update 30 October 2006

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