Art of the Apocalypse


Gothic Art Map
Revelations (Art of the Apocalypse)
    Visions of the World to Come    
    Angels of the Apocalypse    
    The Four Horsemen and the Seven Seals    
    The Beasts, Antichrist, and the Women    
    Judgment Day    
    The Devil and the Damned    
    A New Heaven and a New Earth    
    Exploration: Gothic Era  (Gothic and Early Renaissance)




And Isaw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the
bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the
dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a
thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit.

Revelation 20:1-3




devil is explicitly identified as a serpent. Tradition may link the snake in the garden of Eden with the devil, but Genesis itself makes no such connection. In fact, the devil rarely appears in the Old Testament, and when he does, it is in the guise of Satan (from the Hebrew word meaning "adversary"), who functions as an instrument of God (as when he tests Job) rather than as a rebellious being challenging God's authority.



Albrecht Durer
Knight, Death and the Devil

Raphael (1483-1520)
Saint Michael Trampling the Satan
Musee du Louvre, Paris

But in Revelation, the devil is a powerful foe, battling the forces of good in an attempt to take control of the world and its souls. He makes his first appearance in the book as the great red dragon we've already encountered menacing the woman clothed with the sun. The next verse notes that "his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth" (12:4)—a reference to the belief that when Satan fell from heaven, he took with him the one-third of the angels (stars often symbolize angels in biblical writings) who had joined his unsuccessful revolt against God.
The battle between good and evil is vividly described in Revelation as a physical struggle between the archangel Michael and the devil (embodied as either a man or a dragon). Not surprisingly, throughout the centuries this one-on-one combat has been a favorite of artists, who have relished portraying the details of the two antagonists. Michael is invariably shown prevailing, with the still-struggling devil pinned below his feet or skewered on his sword.


Raphael (1483-1520)
Saint Michael
Musee du Louvre, Paris

So despised and feared was Satan that his face was often scratched out in manuscript illuminations; see, for example, below.

Cimabue, Giotto and others
Satan Swallows the Damned, from
The Last Judgment
Mosaic. Cupola of the Baptistery, Florence

Satan, from The Last Judgment
Byzantine mosaic
Late 12th century
Cathedral, Torccello, Italy



  Although the devil and his angels are "cast out" after Michael defeats them, this conquest does not guarantee Satan's final defeat. Having returned to earth, he wages war on all the offspring of the woman whose child he had tried to steal, then teams up with the beast from the sea to lure the populace into idolatry. After Babylon falls, an angel locks the devil in the bottomless pit, where he remains for the thousand years of Christ's earthly reign. After his release at the end of the millennium, the devil gathers his forces for the final battle. They are summarily defeated, and the devil is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, from which he can never escape.
This fiery domain becomes the hell into which sinners are plunged on Judgment Day—a subject savored by artists from anonymous Byzantine artisans to Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Paul Rubens.
Although Revelation says that the devil "shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever," in representations of hell it is he and his demons who become the enthusiastic tormentors. Satan, holding Antichrist on his lap in a blasphemous variant on the Madonna and Child, is the undisputed king of his flame-filled realm in the twelfth-century mosaic of hell in Torcello, Italy. The entrance to the devil's sul-furous dominion was often depicted as an animated hellmouth—a grotesque and toothy portal to the infernal regions.


Rohan Hours
Saint Michael



Guido Reni
Saint Michael Trampling the Satan


Saint Michael and the Dragon





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