“COVID and the Anti-Vaxxers” – Rick Steves’ Journey Weblog


“COVID and the Anti-Vaxxers”  

JK, it’s a Thirteenth-century picture of hell from the Florence Baptistery. Europe has suffered by way of many plagues and pandemics over the centuries — and within the Center Ages (earlier than they’d the miracle of vaccines), they thought it was God’s anger or the satan that was making their lives depressing. They’d no science to disregard — not like right this moment, when many in our society insist on bringing this avoidable distress upon our group. 

Again then, life was “nasty, brutish, and brief,” leaving medieval individuals obsessive about what got here after: Will I am going to heaven or hell? And this mosaic made it crystal clear what the destiny of the depraved can be. You’d be despatched to hell, the place souls have been devoured by horned ogres, chomped on by snakes, harassed by Spock-eared demons, and roasted in everlasting flames.  

Florence’s Baptistery is even older than this Thirteenth-century mosaic. Constructed atop Roman foundations, it’s town’s oldest surviving constructing — practically 1,000 years outdated. The Baptistery is greatest identified for its bronze Renaissance doorways (together with Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise”), however its inside nonetheless retains the medieval temper. It’s darkish and mysterious, topped with an octagonal dome of golden mosaics of angels and Bible scenes. 

Dominating all of it is the mosaic of Judgment Day. Christ sits on a throne, spreads his arms broad, and provides the last word thumbs-up and thumbs-down. The righteous go to heaven, the others to hell. 

After all, nobody in medieval instances knew precisely what hell was. Even the Bible lacked specifics, describing solely a spot that’s darkish, underground, fiery, disagreeable, eternal, and segregated from the realm of the blessed. 

The mission of the artists who did this mosaic: to deliver hell to life. It’s a chaotic tangle of mangled our bodies, slithering snakes, and licking flames. Within the heart squats a bull-headed monster, together with his arms outstretched like Christ’s demonic doppelgänger. He gorges on one poor soul, grabs the following course together with his arms, and stomps on two extra souls, whereas snakes sprout from his ears and tail to seize extra victims. 

Graphic particulars like these have been groundbreaking in pre-Renaissance instances. We see the beast’s six-pack abs, braided beard, and wrinkled pink gown that echoes the flickering flames. The damned have naturalistic poses — crouching, twisting, gesturing — and their anguished faces inform a tragic story of everlasting torment.  

This mosaic’s realism proved to be massively influential for proto-Renaissance artists like Giotto, and the constructing itself impressed Renaissance architects like Brunelleschi. And shortly after this mosaic was accomplished, somewhat child named Dante Alighieri was dipped into the baptismal font simply beneath it. Dante grew up effectively conscious of this hellish scene. When he wrote his epic poem, Inferno (“Hell”), he described it with the identical vivid imagery: craggy landscapes, mobs of bare wretches, a Minotaur within the heart, and so forth. Dante’s motifs impressed different artists over the centuries (reminiscent of Giotto and Signorelli) who created Europe’s altarpieces, work, novels, and illustrations. These formed the imaginations of individuals world wide. And far of it may be traced to Florence’s Baptistery, and to these nameless artists who labored right here within the Thirteenth century, decided to provide ’em hell. 



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