Michael Barbour, lecturer

Monday 15–Wednesday 17 January 3.00 pm COURSE FEES 330; Staff and students R165

Fourteenth and fifteenth century fresco cycles in Italy have been called the ‘Bible of the people’. The scenes depicted in these frescos constituted narrative, historic and moral stories in an illiterate society. Surprisingly perhaps, these narratives are most often not found in the Bible as one might expect, but come from the less well-known Golden Legend and other apocryphal sources. There is a satisfaction and delight in understanding, interpreting and analysing these pictorial stories which at least one observer has called medieval cartoons or comics. This three-lecture course will examine the technique, imagery and actors of the themes of three fresco cycles and relate their origins to the Golden Legend, a compilation of hagiographies, apocrypha, and revelation by the Archbishop of Genoa in about 1260 and added to by various authors in the years thereafter.

Lecture titles

  1. The Marian cycle
  2. The gospel cycle
  3. The legend of the true cross

Recommended reading

De Voragine, J. 1993. The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hall, J. 1974. Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art. London: John Murray.

Wilson, R. McL. (ed.). 1990. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 1: Gospels and Related Writings. Westminster: John Knox Press.

Wilson, R. McL. (ed.). 1992. New Testament Apocrypha, , Vol. 2: Writings Relating to the Apostles Apocalypses and Related Subjects. Westminster: John Knox Press.