Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Saints

When a person died doing the work of Christ, early Christians celebrated that person’s sacrifice. The day of his death became a holy day and was considered the birth of that person as a saint. Eventually, so many people had died for Christ that there weren’t enough days in the year to commemorate them all. One day was set aside to celebrate all the saints. The day, called All Saints Day, was originally celebrated on May 13.

Halloween began as a Celtic celebration of the end of the goddess Eiseria’s fertility. It corresponded to the harvest, the end of the earth’s fertility. On this day, it was believed that all the evil spirits would come back to earth to wander among the living and, in order to scare away these evil spirits, people lit bonfires and wore masks. The festival was called Samhain.

In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved All Saints’ Day to November 1 and the two celebrations were combined somewhat.

So what does any of this have to do with art? Take a look at Fra Angelico’s All Saints:
This masterpiece was painted between 1423 and 1424 on wood panel. It once decorated the alter of a church near Florence, Italy, but can now be found in the National Gallery in London, England. Just as each saint had his/her own birth day, each saint in the painting is different. And just as all the saints are now celebrated on the same day, all appear together in this one large painting.

Stay tuned for more about Fra Angelico. In the meantime, have a safe and fun Halloween!

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