Jesus in a Spaceship

Jesus in a Spaceship June 18, 2012

Why are there images in medieval art that depict Jesus in a spaceship? Ester Inglic-Arkell at io9 investigates:

Most experts agree that the resemblance of the things in the painting to the spacecraft imagined by modern science fiction artists is uncanny. But none of our own actual spaceships actually resemble what we see in the paintings. None of these paintings show things that look like planes or landers or even satellites. Instead, they show artists’ conceptions of the sort of spaceships that would look good in art.

And centuries ago, they also looked good in art. The only difference was, then the art depicted the presence of the Holy Spirit. Even if an artist saw UFOs flying around, this was a church-commissioned painting on a church wall. The church got the say in what went up on it, not the painter. When the church wanted a depiction of the (forgive the expression) alien presence of God in everyday life, and the painter came up with a design that worked. Similarly, when editors of science fiction pulp magazines wanted a cover picture depicting alien ships coming to Earth, the artist came up with a design that worked. The convergence of the images isn’t one of experience, but of artistic sensibilities.

via Why are there spaceships in Medieval art?.

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  • I’m more concerned by the size and shape of Jesus’ buttocks in this piece than I am about the ship.

    • Yes Matt. This only confirms the long held, but rarely acknowledge possibility that Jesus was not only capable of space travel but that he was a black man.

  • Either that or the Ancient Aliens Guy was right all along. “Jesus? Totally an alien!”

  • Marshall

    That looks like John Glenn re-enetering in a Mercury capsule to me.

  • Evelyn

    I’m not sure that the medievals had a good idea of what the details of a comet looked like. It seems more likely to me that this is a picture of an airborne seed like a milk-thistle seed with a humanoid inside of it. If it is a seed, it might symbolize the conception or creation of “man” given that plants come from seeds and so might a man come out of a man seed.

    The use of a seed as a symbol would be similar to the oft-used mandorla (Italian for “almond”) or vesica piscis (the jesus fish without the tail) for enclosing Christ or the Virgin Mary. According to the Dictionary of Symbolism by Hans Biedermann, “the almond is an ancient symbol for the closing up of valuable contents in a hard, almost impenetrable shell” and the mandorla itself may be an almond-shaped nimbus symbolizing divinity or enlightenment of some sort.

    The other “space-ship” on the right side of the painting looks like the side-view of an eye to me and given that the mind can be considered an organ of perception, it may symbolize God’s perception of man. Maybe the three spikes have something to do with the trinity.

    Interpretations of symbolism are always kind of vague and indeterminate. If you think it is a spaceship, then that is what it means to you. Go with it.

  • The Renaissance paintings of god and Jesus really trumped a lot of earlier works, mainly because Europe was experiencing a rapid rise in wealth, thanks to Columbus, and they were deliberately downplaying contributions from earlier cultures. The Black Madonna is still celebrated in a church or two, but if you didn’t know to search for it, you’d probably never heard of it. Greece also has many mixed imaginary paintings in its church paintings. The Greek Orthodox churches are never deconsecrated, so many of them still survive. I was in one last year with the signs of the zodiac in a circle and Jesus in the middle. You paint what sells. A painting of Jesus as some sort of Sun god is not surprising at all.

  • This makes me think of some depictions of Kal-El (Superman) rocketing to earth from Krypton.

  • Zebedee

    What about this… Don’t forget, it is painted in 1614, when the church dominated “science” so free imagination was not common…

  • Zebedee

    What about this… Don’t forget, it is painted in 1614, when the church dominated “science” so free imagination was not common…

  • Zebedee

    What about this… Don’t forget, it is painted in 1614, when the church dominated “science” so free imagination was not common…

  • DeJae Ford

    reminds me of the venus depictions