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"Requiem aeternam dona eis": The Beaune "Last Judgment" and the Mass of the Dead Author(s): Barbara G. Lane Source: Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Vol. 19, No. 3 (1989), pp. 166- 180 Published by: Stichting voor Nederlandse Kunsthistorische Publicaties Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3780717 . Accessed: 23/08/2011 22:26 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]. Stichting voor Nederlandse Kunsthistorische Publicaties is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art. http://www.jstor.org

Beaune Last Judgment & Mass

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Rogier van der Weyden's Beaune Last Judgment Altarpiece and its relation to the Catholic Mass

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"Requiem aeternam dona eis": The Beaune "Last Judgment" and the Mass of the DeadAuthor(s): Barbara G. LaneSource: Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Vol. 19, No. 3 (1989), pp. 166-180Published by: Stichting voor Nederlandse Kunsthistorische PublicatiesStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3780717 .Accessed: 23/08/2011 22:26

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected].

Stichting voor Nederlandse Kunsthistorische Publicaties is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve andextend access to Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art.


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"Requiem aeternam dona eis": the Beaune Last Judgment and the Mass of the Dead*

Barbara G. Lane

Rogier van der Weyden's Last Judgment altarpiece in the Hotel-Dieu at Beaune (figs. I and 2) is one of the rare early Netherlandish paintings whose artist, original lo- cation, date, and patron are all reasonably certain. On the other hand, no documents help to explain why it depicts the Last Judgment or how it was used. Writers have often remarked that the Last Judgment is a natural subject for a hospital chapel, although it seems to be unprecedented in hospital decoration. In the vast amount of literature devoted to the altarpiece, few scho- lars have tried to place it in its liturgical context.I This article investigates the liturgical impetus behind the choice of the Last Judgment theme, and attempts to

clarify the relationship of the altarpiece to the ceremon- ies performed in its hospital setting.

The Beaune Last Judgment is universally accepted as

* Preliminary versions of this study were presented at the Symposium on Art and Liturgy, Robert Branner Forum for Medieval Art, Colum- bia University, 5 April 1986, and in the Daniel H. Silberberg Lecture Series, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 30 October 1987. I am indebted to M. Chevigne of the Centre Hospitalier de Beaune for providing me with extended access to the Beaune altarpiece in the summer of 1987. For suggestions and criticism at various stages of the project I am especially grateful to Maryan W. Ainsworth, Elizabeth A.R. Brown, William C. Clark, Pamela Scheingorn, and Camilla Trinchieri.

I For a review of the sources and purposes of the altarpiece, see N. Veronee-Verhaegen, L'Hotel-Dieu de Beaune (Les Primitifs Flamands I. Corpus de la peinture des anciens pays-bas meridionaux au quin- zieme siecle, vol. 13), Brussels I973, pp. 50-52, with extensive biblio- graphy. For its sources, see also T.H. Feder, "Roger van der Weyden, and the altarpiece of the 'Last Judgment at Beaune'," (diss.) Columbia University 1975, pp. I33-73.

2 For this passage of the inventory, see esp. Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note i), p. o09 and pl. ccxxxix. The entire inventory of the chapel and ward appears in J.B. Boudrot, "Inventaire de l'H6tel-Dieu de Beaune (I501)," Societe d'Histoire, d'Archeologie et de Litterature de rArrondissement de Beaune, Memoires (1874), pp. 121-36, reprinted in Feder, op. cit. (note i), appendix 3, pp. 257-69.

3 See esp. Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note i), pp. 88-92 (with a

the painting described in an inventory of I50I as the main altarpiece of the ward chapel in the Hotel-Dieu.2 This inventory does not identify the artist of the poly- ptych, but laboratory examination has so far supported its traditional attribution to Rogier van der Weyden, with the probable participation of a number of assis- tants.3 Scholars usually assume that it dates between

1443 and I451, the years of the foundation of the hos-

piital and the consecration of its chapel.4 The patron of both the hospital and the altarpiece was

Nicolas Rolin, the chancellor of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. Rolin received permission to build a hos-

pital from Pope Eugenius IV in I44I, and two years later he signed the charter for the foundation of the Hotel- Dieu at Beaune.5 The charter does not mention that he commissioned an altarpiece, but the I50I hospital in-

review of opinions on its attribution on pp. 64-70); and idem, "Le Retable de Beaune--laboration et collaboration," in Le dessin sous- jacent dans la peinture, Colloque IV, 29-30-31 octobre 981, ed. R. van Schoute and D. Hollanders-Favart, Louvain-la-Neuve 1982, pp. I i-

15 (with an analysis of the sections in which Rogier's assistants are said to have participated). Veronee-Verhaegen's conclusions became out- dated with the invention of infrared reflectography, although no evi- dence to contradict them has yet appeared. (Compare however J.P. Filedt Kok's criticisms of her methods of attributing underdrawing in his review of her 1973 volume in Simiolus 8 (1975-76), pp. I88-89). For the condition and restoration of the altarpiece, see Veronee-Ver- haegen, op. cit. (note I), pp. 1-29 and 75-80, and Feder, op. cit. (note I), pp. 119-31.

4 A review of opinions on the date of the altarpiece occurs in Vero- nee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note i), pp. 70-74.

5 For the 1443 charter and the papal bull of 8 September I44I, see J.B. Boudrot, Fondation et statuts de l'Hotel-Dieu de Beaune, Beaune 1878, pp. 5-22, translated into French on pp. 73-91. The French translation of the charter in H. Stein, L'Hotel-Dieu de Beaune, Paris 1933, pp. 7-14, reprinted in Feder, op. cit. (note i), appendix 2, pp. 246-56, is less accurate; the French translations of the bull in E. Bavard, L'Hotel-Dieu de Beaune, 1443-1880, Beaune i88 , p. 4, and A. Perier, Un chancelier au xve siecle: Nicolas Rolin, 1380-I46I, Paris 1904, pp. 368-69 (which is based on Bavard), and the English version


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I-2 Rogier van der Weyden, Last Judgment altarpiece, interior and exterior. Beaune, H6tel-Dieu

:N : j

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3 Beaune, Hotel-Dieu, ward and chapel

ventory identifies Rolin and his third wife, Guigone de Salins, as the kneeling donors on the outside wings of the polyptych.6

Born at Autun in i376, Rolin made numerous pro- visions for his salvation before his death there on 18 January I462.7 As early as 1426, he established Masses for his soul and the souls of his ancestors at Notre- Dame-du-Chastel in Autun, and in I429-30 he donated funds for the rebuilding of his family chapel in the same church.8 It was for this chapel that he commissioned the Madonna by Jan van Eyck, now in the Louvre in Paris,

in Feder, op. cit. (note I), p. 92 (which cites Perier) are incomplete. 6 See note 2 above. For evidence that Guigone was Rolin's third

wife (not his second, as usually stated), see G. Valat, "Nicolas Rolin, chancelier de Bourgogne," Mimoires de la Sociite' duenne, n.s. 4I (1913), p. 4; P. Esdouhard d'Anisy, Le polyptyque de f'Htel-Dieu de Beaune, Brussels & Paris 1916, p. i8, note 1; and Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. 49.

7 For Rolin's epitaph, see H. de Fontenay, "Notre-Dame, eglise paroissiale et collegiale," Mimoires de la Societe Eduenne, n.s. 8 (1879), p. 402 (cited in A.H. van Buren, "The canonical office in Renaissance painting, part 2: more about the Rolin Madonna," Art Bulletin 60 (1978), p. 631, note 68).

8 On Rolin's donations to Notre-Dame-du-Chastel, see esp. H. Adhimar, "Sur la Vierge du Chancelier Rolin de Van Eyck," Bulletin de lInstitut Royal du PatrimoineArtistique 15 (1975), pp. II-I4, and van Buren, op. cit. (note 7), pp. 630-31. For his biography in general, see for instance Perier, op. cit. (note 5), passim; H. Pirenne, "Rolin (Nicolas)," in Biographie nationale... de Belgique, vol. 19, Brussels 1907, pp. 828-39; and Feder, op. cit. (note I), pp. 79-97.

9 For a proposal regarding the exact location of the panel in Rolin's

sometime between I430 and I436.9 Rolin almost founded his Hotel-Dieu in Autun as well. His decision to build it in Beaune was probably based partly on the fact that the need for a hospital there was especially urgent as a result of the famines that had spread throughout Burgundy in recent years. 0

Rolin stated his reason for founding the hospital in the opening words of the I443 charter: "...having put aside human cares [and] thinking of my own salva- tion..."" His continued obsession with redemption is revealed in the amendments which he added to the

chapel, see van Buren, op. cit. (note 7), pp. 631-33, where the panel is dated as early as 1430 or I431. See J. Snyder, "The chronology of Jan van Eyck's paintings," in Album Amicorum J.G. van Gelder, The Hague 1973, p. 297, for a chart summarizing opinions about its dating in the earlier literature.

io The famine of 1438 and the extensive deaths and outbreaks of plague in the following years are discussed in Bavard, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 1-2, and Perier, op. cit. (note 5), p. 368. For Rolin's indecision on the location of the Hotel-Dieu and his reasons for choosing Beaune, see Bavard, op. cit. (note 5), p. 5; Perier, op. cit. (note 5), p. 369; Stein, op. cit. (note 5), p. I5; S.N. Blum, Early Netherlandish triptychs: a study in patronage, Berkeley & Los Angeles I969, p. 37; Veronee- Verhaegen, op. cit. (note i), p. 63 (with additional remarks in the introduction by P. Quarr6, p. xi); and Feder, op. cit. (note I), pp. 92- 93.

Ii "...humanis postpositis sollicitudinibus, de propria salute reco- gitans...;" Boudrot, op. cit. (note 5), p. 5. Cf. the French translations of this passage in ibid., p. 73; Stein, op. cit. (note 5), p. 7; and Feder, op. cit. (note I), p. 246; and the English translation and discussion in Blum, op. cit. (note io), pp. 46-47.


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The Beaune Last Judgment and the Mass of the Dead

4 Patients of the Hotel-Dieu in their beds, from Livre de vie active. Paris, Musee de 1'Assistance Publique, cat. nr. 59, fol. 77

charter in I459, three years before his death.'2 One of these described the funeral services that he wished held for him in the hospital chapel; another decreed that the Office of the Dead must be said there twice a day, before breakfast in the morning and at Vespers, along with the Hours of the Virgin and specific recommendations for his soul and that of his wife. 3 As Blum noted, even the bread given to the poor each morning was henceforth to be donated in his name. 4

It is probable that Rolin hoped his donation of Ro-

gier's polyptych would help him achieve salvation just as much as his foundation of the hospital. That he associa- ted the altarpiece with death is suggested by the fact that

12 Cf. Blum, op. cit. (note o1), pp. 45-46. The amendments are printed in the original Latin in Boudrot, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 51-71, with a French translation on pp. 0o6-27, and summarized in Stein, op. cit. (note 5), pp. I8-23 and Feder, op. cit. (note I), pp. 101-02.

13 Amendments 26 (Boudrot, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 68 and 124) and 23 (ibid., pp. 66 and I22). Feder, op. cit. (note I), p. I02, claimed that the prayers in Amendment 23 were to be recited three times a day because he translated "de mane ante prandium" as "in the morning and before dinner." This misinterpretation may derive from the in- correct French translation in Stein, op. cit. (note 5), p. 22 ("dans la matinee et avant le diner").

I4 Blum, op. cit. (note io), p. 45 (Amendment 13; Boudrot, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 62 and 17).

15 This was noted by Feder, op. cit. (note i), pp. I89-9I, citing Perier, op. cit. (note 5), p. 377, and J. d'Arbaumont, "Nicolas Rolin," Revue Nobilaire Historique et Biographique, n.s. i (i865), p. 8.

I6 For evidence that Rolin was buried with his family in the choir of Notre-Dame-du-Chastel rather than in his family chapel there, see van Buren, op. cit. (note 7), p. 631, note 68. Blum, op. cit. (note Io), p.

he appears on its exterior in a hooded, black velvet fur- lined robe that conforms to his specifications for his funeral attire.I5 Although he was buried in his family church in Autun, Rolin seems to have conceived of Ro- gier's painting as a funerary monument for himself and his family.16 As scholars have often noted, however, this was only one of its purposes.

Rogier's polyptych served as the main altarpiece of the hospital chapel, which was dedicated to Christ, the Virgin, and St Anthony. 7 Like a number of medieval hospitals, the Hotel-Dieu at Beaune resembled a Chris- tian basilica in its wide, nave-like ward that ended in a chapel (fig. 3). 8 This design reflects Rolin's intentions

135, note 62, and Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. 51, argued that he originally intended to be buried in the hospital chapel at Beaune. Apparently, only Guigone and Philippote, one of his daughters by his second wife, were buried in the chapel (Bavard, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 93 and I 3; Perier, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 378 and 385; and Stein, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 26 and 28). Their tombs were destroyed in February I794, during the French Revolution; for the alleged sub- sequent history of Guigone's remains, see Bavard, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 284 and 333-34.

17 For the dedication of the chapel, see Boudrot, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 6 and 74; Stein, op. cit. (note 5), p. 8; Feder, op. cit. (note i), p. 246; and note 29 below.

i8 For the medieval ward and chapel combination, see esp. F. Boi- net, Le Lit d'hopital en France, itude historique, Paris I945, pp. 14 and 17-19; D. Leistikow, Ten centuries of European hospital architecture, Ingelheim am Rhein 1967, pp. 25-3I; and J.D. Thompson and G. Goldin, The hospital: a social and architectural history, New Haven & London 1975, pp. 2I-30.


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in the foundation of the hospital. In the charter, he sti- pulated that thirty beds were to be placed near the cha- pel, where Mass was to be celebrated by two priests every day at 8 o'clock in the morning.19

The 150I inventory of the ward states that each of its beds accommodated two patients.20 A miniature from the Livre de vie active of 1482 by Jehan Henry (fig. 4) illustrates a similar situation at the Hotel-Dieu in Paris, with one pale patient isolated because she is close to death.2I Such conditions were apparently rather luxur-

ious, since the "grands lits" in other fifteenth-century French hospitals held from three to fifteen patients, each with a different malady.22 Like most patients who en- tered hospitals in this period, the inmates at Beaune had little chance of leaving in anything but a coffin. In fact, the Hotel-Dieu buried its first fatality on io January 1452, only nine days after it had started receiving pa- tients.23 Its layout indicates that the need for a fast, efficient method of disposing of the deceased had been

anticipated. Just down the hall from the ward there was an infirmary that was used for burial preparations. From

I9 Boudrot, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 12-I3 and 80-8i; Stein, op. cit. (note 5), p. ii; and Feder, op. cit. (note I), p. 251. Pope Eugenius IV authorized a daily Mass in the presence of the patients in the papal bull granting Rolin permission to build the hospital (Boudrot, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 19 and 21, 88 and go). For the bull see note 5 above.

20 Boudrot, op. cit. (note 2), p. 133, reprinted in Feder, op. cit. (note I), p. 265.

21 Paris, Musee de l'Assistance Publique, cat. nr. 59, fol. 77. For this miniature and the manuscript in which it occurs, see Dix siecles d'histoire hospitali?re parisienne: I'Hotel-Dieu de Paris (651-1650), Paris 1961, pp. 114-15, nr. 156, and 37-38, nr. 28.

22 See esp. Boinet, op. cit. (note I8), pp. 21-25. For conditions at the H6tel-Dieu in Paris, see E. Coyecque, L'Hotel-Dieu de Paris au moyen dge, vol. I, Paris i891, pp. 73-74; Dix siicles, cit. (note 21), p. I 15; and C. Coury, L'Hotel-Dieu de Paris: treize siecles de soins, d'en- seignement et de recherche, Paris 1969, p. 31.

23 Bavard, op. cit. (note 5), p. 14; Perier, op. cit. (note 5), p. 373; Stein, op. cit. (note 5), p. 24; A. Leflaive, L'Hotel-Dieu de Beaune et les hospitali?res, Paris 1959, p. 21; Blum, op. cit. (note o0), p. 38; and Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note i), p. 64.

24 Cf. Blum, op. cit. (note Io), p. 38, with a plan of the hospital in fig. 31 (note that the chapel actually faces east-south-east).

25 See Boinet, op. cit. (note I8), p. 14; Blum, op. cit. (note io), pp. 38-39; and the seventeenth-century description of the hospital in Ver- onee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. xii. According to Bavard, op. cit. (note 5), p. 333, the present screen was reconstructed during the res- toration of the ward that began in 1875 from the description of the original screen in the inventory; see Boudrot, op. cit. (note 2), pp. 123- 24 and Feder, op. cit. (note i), p. 260.

there, a door led directly to the hospital cemetery.24 The ward was separated from the chapel by a pierced

screen, through which the patients witnessed the cere- monies performed at the altar.25 When they did so, they saw the Last Judgment altarpiece, whose enormous size must have been determined by the need for it to be visible to the entire ward.2 6 The images in the polyptych offered the patients the hope that their earthly pains would be cured and the promise that their prayers would bring them redemption.

On the exterior, the grisaille, simulated statues of Sts Sebastian and Anthony (fig. 2) were visible through the center opening of the pierced screen when the polyptych was in its normal closed position. These are not the patron saints of Rolin and his wife, who kneel before them, but healing saints whose presence derives from their relationship to the hospital setting.27 St Sebastian, the first of the plague saints, was an intercessor against epidemics of all kinds.28 St Anthony, the original dedi- catory saint of the hospital, could also be called upon for protection against the plague.29 He was most popular,

26 In the opened position, the polyptych measures 215 x 560 cm. See Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note i), p. 31, and pl. I, for a view of the ward with the altarpiece temporarily replaced on the altar; it is now displayed in another room of the hospital.

27 Cf. the discussion in Feder, op. cit. (note i), p. 180-8I. For the similar roles of these two saints in Griinewald's Isenheim altarpiece, see Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. 46, and A. Hayum, "The meaning and function of the Isenheim altarpiece: the hospital context revisited," Art Bulletin 59 (1977), p. 503. For their problematic rela- tionship to Rolin and his wife, see the sources cited in Veronee-Ver- haegen, op. cit. (note I), pp. 45-46, and A. Eorsi, "From the expulsion to the enchaining of the devil: the iconography of the Last Judgement altar of Rogier van der Weyden in Beaune," Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 30 (I984), p. I49.

28 See esp. L. du Broc de Segange, Les saints patrons des corpora- tions et protecteurs spicialement invoquis dans les maladies et dans les circonstances critiques de la vie, vol. I, Paris 1887, pp. 60-63; L. Reau, Iconographie de l'art chretien, Paris 1955-59, vol. 3, pt. 3, p. 1191; and M.M. Antony-Schmitt, Le culte de Saint Sibastien en Alsace, Stras- bourg & Colmar 1977, p. I0.

29 See Reau, op. cit. (note 28), vol. 3, pt. 1, p. 104, for St Anthony's powers against the plague. Pope Nicholas v changed the dedication of the hospital from St Anthony to St John the Baptist in a papal bull of 30 December 1451, one day before the consecration of the chapel; for the confusion over this date, usually cited as 1452, see Veronee-Ver- haegen, op. cit. (note i), p. 72. On the reasons for the change in the dedication, see ibid., pp. 64 and 72, and Blum, op. cit. (note Io), p. 41. French translations of the bull appear in Bavard, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 57-58, and Leflaive, op. cit. (note 23), pp. 19-20.


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The Beaune Last Judgment and the Mass of the Dead I7I

however, as the patron of skin diseases and the so-called "St Anthony's fire," now recognized as ergotism.30

The interior of the altarpiece (fig. i) dramatizes the promise of the Mass.3' Dressed as a deacon at High Mass, the Archangel Michael functions as the assistant to the sacrificing priest, Christ.32 When the polyptych was opened during Mass, Rogier's overwhelming Last Judgment reminded the patients and the donors of the salvation they could expect through participation in the daily oblation performed in the chapel. There are, how- ever, a number of subjects from Christ's infancy and Passion that would have conveyed a similar message. A review of some of the precedents and sources of the altarpiece suggests that the choice of its theme related to the funerary purpose of the chapel.

The two paintings that are most frequently cited as precedents for the Beaune Last Judgment are a large panel in the Hotel de Ville in Diest, generally dated shortly after I420 (fig. 5),33 and Stefan Lochner's ver- sion of the theme at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne (fig. 6), which was probably painted about i440.34 Each of these panels portrays the central Deesis group between a Gothic Gate of Paradise and a frenzied Hell scene. In the version in Diest, a group of seated apostles incongruously dominates the center fore- ground, with no apparent relationship to the nearby souls rising from their tombs or sinking into the fiery

30 For St Anthony and ergotism, see esp. H. Chaumartin, Le Mal des ardents et le feu Saint-Antoine, Paris I946, and V.H. Bauer, Das Antonius-Feuer in Kunst und Medizin, Berlin, Heidelberg & New York I973, esp. pp. I9-33. The famines in Burgundy in the years preceding Rolin's commission of the altarpiece (see note io above) must have led to epidemics of ergotism that more than justified the need for St Anthony's protection.

31 Cf. Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. 51, and B.G. Lane, The altar and the altarpiece: sacramental themes in early Netherlandish painting, New York 1984, pp. 139-43.

32 This idea was emphasized by M.B. McNamee in a presentation at the College Art Association Meeting in 1986. For Michael's liturgi- cal vestments, see also Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note i), pp. 33 and 51; idem, "D'un 'Jugement Dernier' a l'autre...," in Ars auro prior: studia Ioanni Bialostocki sexagenario dicata, Warsaw 1981, p. 177; and Lane, op. cit. (note 31), p. 142.

33 For this panel, owned by the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels but still on display in Diest, see esp. N. Veronee-Verhaegen, "Le Jugement Dernier de Diest: le point de vue de l'historien d'art," Bulletin de rlnstitut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique IO (1967-68), pp. 99-I o, with previous bibliography.

34 A reconstruction of the altarpiece of which this was the center panel appears in O.H. Forster, Stefan Lochner, ein Maler zu Koln, Bonn 1952, pp. 13 and 122-24.

5 Last Judgment. Diest, Hotel de Ville

6 Stefan Lochner, Last Judgment. Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz- Museum

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7 Gislebertus, Last Judgment tympanum. Autun, St Lazare

pit.35 Lochner's scene portrays dozens of the resur- rected dead pleading for their salvation as angels and demons dispute over them; here, crowds of the blessed vie for first place at the door of Paradise, while the tor- mented damned struggle in vain against the monsters who lead them toward their impending doom.

In contrast to these terrifying, chaotic images, the Beaune Last Judgment exudes calm and control. Its sense of order derives from its clear separation between the realms of heaven and earth and its wide division between the end panels of Paradise and Hell. Christ, raised so high above the other figures that the central panel extends upward to accommodate him, seems to orchestrate the careful balance and slow progression of movement throughout the painting. Immediately below him, St Michael weighs diminutive personifications of virtue and sin. To Christ's right, a few blessed souls tentatively approach the doors of Paradise, while the agonized damned at his left fearfully descend into a Hell whose only demons are the torments of the mind.36

35 For the possible derivation of the apostle group from an image of Pentecost, see Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note 33), p. 104 and note 6.

36 Among those who have noted the absence of demons in this Hell scene are E. Panofsky, Early Netherlandish painting, Cambridge (Mass.) 1953, p. 270; N. Veronee-Verhaegen, "La 'Chute des Damnes' de Thierry Bouts au Musee des Beaux-Arts de Lille: note iconographique," Bulletin de rlnstitut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique 13 (1971-72), p. 20 and note Io; M. Davies, Rogier van der Weyden, London 1972, p. I9; and Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), pp. 34, 4I (with previous bibliography), and 93. For contrasting opinions, see

8 Last Judgment tympanum. Bourges, Cathedral

The pronounced horizontality and orderly division into separate zones in Rogier's painting are closer to Romanesque and Gothic carved tympana of the same theme than to the painted versions mentioned above. These similarities have led writers to compare the Beaune altarpiece to such tympana as those on the west- ern doorway at St Lazare in Autun, and the central portal of the west facade of Bourges Cathedral (figs. 7 and 8).37 The lower section of Rogier's Last Judgment, with the resurrection of the dead stretching across the five central panels, even recalls the placement of the same theme on the lintels at both St Lazare and Bourges.

Rogier could have known many such tympana, of course, so it would be foolish to insist that any one parti- cular example influenced the composition of his poly- ptych. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that the colossal tympanum by Gislebertus at St Lazare in Rolin's native city of Autun was one of the sources of the Beaune altar- piece, even if Rogier never saw it. The liturgical associa- tions of this tympanum suggest that Rolin's familiarity

Feder, op. cit. (note i), pp. 197-202, and Eorsi, op. cit. (note 27), pp.


37 See Panofsky, op. cit. (note 36), p. 269, and Feder, op. cit. (note i), p. i60. For the twelfth-century tympanum at Autun, see esp. D. Grivot and G. Zarnecki, Gislebertus, sculptor of Autun, New York 1961, pp. 25-55, and O.K. Werckmeister, "Die Auferstehung der Toten am Westportal von St. Lazare in Autun," Friihmittelalterliche Studien I6 (I982), pp. 208-36; for the thirteenth-century one at Bourges, in which the lintel is heavily restored, see T. Bayard, Bourges Cathedral: the west portals, (diss.) New York 1976, pp. 89-94.


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The Beaune Last Judgment and the Mass of the Dead

Padua, Arena Chapel, view of the interior from the 9 Padua, Arena Chapel, view of the interior from the altar

with it contributed to his decision to commission a Last Judgment.38

Although the western portal of St Lazare serves as the main entrance today, this was not the case in the fif- teenth century. The original main entry of the church was through a doorway in its north transept, where the tympanum portrayed the Raising of Lazarus.39 The western portal faced the cemetery, which held the graves of the clergy and benefactors of the church.40 In this cemetery, therefore, burial prayers were recited beneath Gislebertus' overpowering Last Judgment. As Werck- meister demonstrated, in fact, this tympanum relates closely to the liturgy of the Office of the Dead celebrated in Autun in the twelfth century.4I

Nicolas Rolin probably associated the Last Judgment

38 Feder, op. cit. (note i), p. I60, suggested that this example inspired Rolin's decision, but did not discuss its liturgical usage.

39 Grivot and Zarnecki, op. cit. (note 37), p. 146; Werckmeister, op. cit. (note 37), p. 21 . For a seventeenth-century description of the north door as the "portail de l'entree," see "Relation d'un voyage a Autun en 1646 par Du Buisson-Aubenay," Memoires de la Socidte Eduenne, n.s. 14 (1885), p. 283. For the tympanum of the Raising of Lazarus, see Grivot and Zarnecki, op. cit. (note 37), pp. 146-59, and O. Werckmeister, "The lintel fragment representing Eve from Saint- Lazare, Autun," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 35 (1972), pp. 1-30.

40 Grivot and Zarnecki, op. cit. (note 37), pp. 20 (noting that the cemetery was not suppressed until the eighteenth century) and 146;

io Giotto, Last Judgment, detail of Scrovegni offering the chapel to the Virgin. Padua, Arena Chapel

with death from childhood on, through his knowledge of the funerary usage of the overpowering tympanum at Autun. This association may help to explain why he selected the Last Judgment as the subject for the altar- piece of the chapel at Beaune. Consideration of a few earlier examples in which this subject appears in con- nection with the liturgy of the dead will illustrate the logic of Rolin's choice.

Among the precedents for the use of the Last Judg- ment in a funerary chapel is Giotto's LastJudgment fres- co on the western wall of the Arena Chapel in Padua (fig. 9). Probably completed by 1305, the chapel was founded by Enrico Scrovegni, who kneels among the blessed in Paradise as he offers a model of the building to the Vir-

gin (fig. Io).42 The words of Scrovegni's will indicate

Werckmeister, op. cit. (note 37), p. 22I.

41 Werckmeister, op. cit. (note 37), pp. 210-25. Werckmeister rec- ognized that the description of the Last Judgment in John 5:25-29 was used as a Gospel reading in the Requiem Mass. For its similar usage in fifteenth-century Masses of the Dead, see note 52 below.

42 For the problematic identification of the three figures to whom Scrovegni offers his chapel, see the following discussions in J.H. Stubblebine (ed.), Giotto: the Arena Chapelfrescoes, New York I969: D.C. Shorr, "The role of the Virgin in Giotto's Last Judgment," p. 173 and note i8; U. Schlegel, "On the picture program of the Arena Chapel," pp. I92-93; and J.H. Stubblebine, "Giotto and the Arena Chapel Frescoes," p. 90.


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ii Mass of the Dead, from Heures de Milan. Turin, Museo Civico, fol. i6

that his reason for this foundation was similar to Rolin's motivation for building the Hotel-Dieu: "I, Enrico Scrovegni... select the tomb for my body just by the church and in the Church of Saint Mary of Charity of the Arena of Padua, namely in the monument con- structed for myself in that church-which church and which monument I had constructed by the grace of God for my lasting benefit."43

Scrovegni appears within the Last Judgment itself, in contrast to Rolin's portrayal on an exterior wing of Ro- gier's altarpiece, but the intent is similar in both works.

43 Schlegel, op. cit. (note 42), pp. 199-200 (with a discussion of the intended location of Enrico's tomb on pp. I99-20I). For Scrovegni's desire to achieve salvation, see also Shorr, op. cit. (note 42), p. 171.

44 Schlegel, op. cit. (note 42), p. I9I.

45 Ibid., p. 20I.

Schlegel argued that the entire fresco program of the Arena Chapel, dominated by the monumental Last Judgment, was determined by "atonement, death, and judgment."44 Her conclusion that "...it was the thought of the Last Judgment that led to the construction of the church" could just as easily be applied to Rolin's hos- pital in the following century.45

The Last Judgment also appears occasionally in asso- ciation with the Mass of the Dead in illuminated fif- teenth-century books of hours.46 An example occurs in one of the so-called "Hand G" miniatures from the

46 The Last Judgment occurs more frequently as the illustration for the penitential psalms in illuminated manuscripts, whereas scenes of funeral services such as that in fig. i usually accompany the Office and Mass of the Dead.



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The Beaune Last Judgment and the Mass of the Dead

12 Last Judgment, Hours of Catherine of Cleves. New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, M. 917, p. 28

Turin-Milan Hours, where a historiated initial portrays an abbreviated LastJudgment below the half-page scene of mourners surrounding a coffin in the nave of a majes- tic Gothic church (fig. I I).47 This initial begins the first word of the Introit of the Mass of the Dead, "Requiem," beside the French rubric, "La messe des mors." Its Last

Judgment relates just as closely to the text as do the main miniature and the scene in the bas-de-page, which shows the blessing of a grave in a cemetery.

A rare example of the Last Judgment as the main illustration for the Requiem Mass occurs in two minia- tures of the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, executed in

47 Turin, Museo Civico, Heures de Milan, fol. I I6; see G. Hulin de Loo, Heures de Milan, Brussels & Paris 1911, pp. 65-66 and pl. xxl, where all three miniatures on this page are given to "Hand G." For its original placement in the manuscript, see P. Durrieu, Les Tr?s Belles Heures de Notre-Dame du Duc Jean de Berry, Paris 1922, p. 120. Schol- ars are usually so concerned with the question of whether or not Jan van Eyck executed the main miniature on this page that they ignore its relationship to the text below, a case in point being Panofsky, op. cit. (note 36), p. 245. Although Feder, op. cit. (note i), p. 173, note 59,

13 St Michael weighing the souls, Hours of Catherine of Cleves. New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, M. 917, p. 29

the northern Netherlands in the same decade as the Beaune Last Judgment (figs. 12 and 13).48 In this case, a

full-page miniature opposite the text resembles Rogier's painting in its placement of the judging Christ high above the resurrected dead. St Michael balances the scales in a separate miniature on the facing page, above the opening words of the Introit, "Requiem aeternam." As in the Turin-Milan Hours, the Arena Chapel, and the Beaune altarpiece, the Last Judgment appears here because it is one of the major themes of the Mass of the Dead.

That Nicolas Rolin was conversant with the liturgy of

cited the image in the initial "R" as a possible source for Rogier's altarpiece, he also made no attempt to relate it to its text.

48 New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, M. 917, pp. 28-29; see J. Plummer, The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, New York 1966, pp. 28- 29, nrs. 49-50. This manuscript is preserved in two volumes (M. 917 and M. 945). See ibid., pp. 19-22, for a review of the evidence for dating it about I44o. Its Office of the Dead, for the use of Windesheim and Utrecht, contains many of the passages discussed below.


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death is indicated by his establishment of the recitation of the Office of the Dead in the chapel twice a day.49 The prayers that he specified for his funerary service in the chapel, moreover, are common to both medieval and modern versions of the Mass of the Dead.s0 In his re- quest for a "Requiem aeternam," Rolin chose the prayer that gave the Requiem Mass its name. A brief review of this Mass, which must have been performed in the hos- pital chapel all too frequently, indicates that the subject he selected for his altarpiece could not have been more appropriate.

The "Requiem aeternam" is the Introit of the Mass of the Dead. Its dramatic words are repeated constantly throughout both the Mass and the Office: "Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis" ("Lord, grant them eternal rest, and let perpetual light shine upon them").5I As illustrated in figs. i and 13, this prayer usually introduces the Requiem Mass in li- turgical texts.

There are two alternate Gospel readings for the Mass of the Dead. The first, from John 5:25-29, describes

impending judgment: "The hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." The se- cond, from a later passage in John (II:21-27), concen- trates on the Raising of Lazarus, a prototype of the re- surrection of the dead. It too contains Last Judgment imagery in Christ's declaration: "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, although he be

49 See above, p. 169 and note 13. For the Office of the Dead in the modern breviary, see The Hours of the Divine Office in English and Latin, Collegeville (Minn.) 1963, vol. I, pp. 99I-1029 (repeated in vols. 2 and 3 on the same pages). For its medieval development, see esp. G. Rowell, The liturgy of Christian burial, London 1977, pp. 66- 67. Many of the prayers discussed below appear in various versions of the Office of the Dead as well as the Requiem Mass.

50 For example, the "Inclina Domine" (The Missal in Latin and English, Westminster (Maryland) 1963, p. 256*; hereafter cited as Missal) and the "Fidelium" (ibid., pp. I206, 246* and 251*). For various uses of these prayers in medieval Requiem Masses, see J.W. Legg, The Sarum Missal, Oxford I9I6, pp. 442 and 446-47, and R. Lippe (ed.), Missale Romanum Mediolani, I474, 2 vols. (Henry Brad- shaw Society, vols. 17 and 33), London 1899 and 1907, vol. I, pp. 488 and 492, as well as the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (M. 917, pp. 30- 3 ; see note 48 above). In this discussion, the term "modern" refers to the usage in this century before the revisions of the 1970 Roman Missal, and the sources cited are intended to illustrate the consistency of the Mass of the Dead in various fifteenth-century usages.

14 Christ, detail of fig. I

dead, shall live, and every one that liveth and believeth in me shall not die for ever."52

Either of these readings sets the tone for the solemn words of the Offertory of this Mass: "Lord Jesus Christ, king of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit. Save them from the lion's jaws; let them not be engulfed in hell nor swallowed up in darkness."53 Even more dra-

5x For the Requiem Mass in general, see "Requiem," in The Ox- ford dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross and E.A. Li- vingstone, Oxford I9742, p. 1175, with additional bibliography; for its early history see J.A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite: its origins and development, vol. i, trans. F.A. Brunner, New York 1951, pp. 217-19.

52 All biblical citations are from the Douai version. Both of these passages occur as Gospel readings for the Mass of the Dead in Legg, op. cit. (note 50), p. 432, and Lippe, op. cit. (note 50), vol. I, pp. 485- 86; John I I: 2-27 also appears in this context in the Hours of Cathe- rine of Cleves (M. 917, p. 48; see note 48 above). See also Missal, cit. (note 50), pp. I207, 233*, and 248*.

53 "Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae, libera animas omnium fide- lium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu: libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum;" Missal, cit. (note 50), p. 234*. For the rest of this passage, see note 68 below. The Offertory of the Requiem Mass is invariable; see Legg, op. cit. (note 50), p. 433, and Lippe, op. cit. (note 50), vol. I, p. 486.


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The Beaune Last Judgment and the Mass of the Dead

15 St Michael, detail of fig. I

matic is the "Libera me" response, sung during the modern Absolution after a Requiem Mass: "Deliver me, Lord, from everlasting death on that dread day when heaven and earth will rock, and thou wilt come to judge the world by fire.... That day of wrath, calamity and sorrow; that great day of exceeding bitterness."54 As scholars have often noted, this response was one of the major sources of the emotional sequence incorporated into the Mass of the Dead after the tract, the "Dies irae," whose lyrical verses describe the Last Judgment in terrifying detail.55

Since the prayers of the Office and Mass of the Dead

54 "Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda: Quando caeli movendi sunt et terra: Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.... Dies illa, dies irae, calamitatis et miseriae, dies magna et amara valde;" Missal, cit. (note 50), p. 242*. For the full text of this response, usually abbreviated in the Mass of the Dead, see F.J. Raby, A history of Christian-Latin poetryfrom the beginnings to the close of the middle ages, Oxford i9532, pp. 445-46, where its "sense of terror" is stressed.

55 For the "Libera me" as a source of the thirteenth-century "Dies irae," see Rowell, op. cit. (note 49), pp. 67-68. For the "Dies irae" in general, see esp. Raby, op. cit. (note 54), pp. 443-52, with its original text on p. 448 and various additions to it on p. 449. The "Dies irae" appears in the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (M. 917, pp. 32-34; see

concentrate on judgment and salvation, the Last Judg- ment is an ideal subject for the altarpiece of a chapel in which they are recited. The polyptych that Rogier creat- ed for Nicolas Rolin could hardly have dramatized the recurring themes of these rituals more successfully. Its radiant gold background, spanning almost the entire width of the altarpiece, defines the celestial sphere to- ward which the resurrected dead look for judgment. Curving inscriptions on either side of Christ (fig. I4) summarize the promise of the Requiem Mass. The white inscription to his right reads from bottom to top, echoing the ascent of the rising scale: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." In contrast, the red words on his left descend toward the damned: "Depart from me you cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels."56

One feature of Rogier's composition simultaneously distinguishes it from its precedents and confirms its re- lationship to the liturgy of death: its emphasis on the archangel Michael. In contrast to earlier Last Judgments such as those illustrated above, the central focus of the Beaune altarpiece is St Michael rather than the judging Christ. Garbed in a gleaming white alb and an elaborate cope of red and gold brocade, the archangel dominates the foreground of the center panel (fig. 15). His alb com- prises the largest area of white in the painting, hypnoti- cally attracting the viewer's glance. Bridging the gap between the earthly and celestial worlds, he is the only holy figure who occupies the earthly realm. As Veronee- Verhaegen has noted, he takes a small step forward, as if to enter the viewer's space, and his piercing gaze directly out of the picture seems to imply that the one to be judged is the worshipper himself.57 From the beds in the ward, he was visible through the central opening of

note 48 above), as well as in the 1485 and 1493 editions of the Roman Missal (Lippe, op. cit. (note 50), vol. 2, p. 293). For a modern, rhymed translation, see Missal, cit. (note 50), pp. 230*-32*. J.-C. Payen, "Le Dies Irae dans la predication de la mort et des fins dernieres au moyen age," Romania 86 (i965), p. 64, stressed its recurring emphasis on the themes of fear and hope.

56 "Venite benedicti patris mei possidete paratum vobis Regnum a constitucione [sic] mundi," and "Discedite a me maledicti in Ignem eternum qui paratis est dyabolo et angelis eius" (Matthew 25:34 and 41; Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. 59 and pls. LII-LIII).

57 Ibid., p. 33. McNamee (note 32) also noted that Michael is the only saint in the earthly realm.


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16 St Michael, detail of fig. 8

the pierced screen whenever the interior of the altar-

piece was on view. Even when the polyptych was closed, the patients would have felt his presence directly behind the shutters that depicted Sts Sebastian and Anthony. Like these intercessors on the exterior, Michael was also a plague saint,58 but this is not the only reason for his unusual prominence in Rogier's painting.

One of the archangel's functions in the Beaune altar-

piece is to weigh the souls, as in a number of French

tympana of the Last Judgment, such as the one at

Bourges mentioned above (fig. i6).59 Since it is Christ rather than Michael who decides the final destination of each soul, however, it is Christ who must control the movement of the scales. Rogier conveyed this idea by paralleling Christ's gestures and the tilt of the scales (fig. I7).60 As Christ's right hand necessarily rises in bless-

ing, the scale below it also ascends. As his lowered left hand condemns the damned, the scale weighing sins sinks to the ground. In contrast to the image at Bourges and most Christian versions of the psychostasis, there-

fore, evil outweighs good in the Beaune Last Judg- ment.6' This reversal does not necessarily mean, how-

58 For Michael as a plague saint, see esp. Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note i), p. 35, with previous bibliography.

59 See note 37 above for the tympanum at Bourges. Similar early thirteenth-century examples occur at Chartres Cathedral (south tran- sept, central door; A. Katzenellenbogen, The sculptural programs of Chartres Cathedral, New York 1959, pp. 82-87); Notre-Dame, Paris (west facade, central door; A. Erlande-Brandenburg, Les sculptures de Notre-Dame de Paris au Musee de Cluny, Paris I982, pp. 28-41); and Amiens Cathedral (west facade, central door; W. Medding, Die West- portale der Kathedrale von Amiens und ihre Meister, Augsburg 1930, pp. 20-29).

60 Among those who have commented on this parallel and the complementary position of St Michael's arms are 0. Holtze, "Rogier van der Weyden's Altar von Beaune," Pantheon 27 (1941), pp. 126-28; Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. 33; Eorsi, op. cit. (note 27), pp. I39-41; and P. Scheingorn and D. Bevington, "'Alle this was token Domysday to Drede': visual signs of the Last Judgment in the Corpus Christi cycles and in late Gothic art," in Homo, memento finis: the iconography ofjust judgment in medieval art and drama, Kalamazoo 1985, p. I25.

6i For overviews of the psychostasis, see M.P. Perry, "On the psychostasis in Christian art," The Burlington Magazine 22 (1912-13), pp. 94-105 and 208-18; L. Kretzenbacher, Die Seelenwaage, Klagen- furt 1958; Panofsky, op. cit. (note 36), pp. 270-72; Feder, op. cit. (note I), pp. 138-44; and the additional sources cited in Veronee-Verhae- gen, op. cit. (note I), pp. 34-35. For Michael as the weigher of souls, see also S.G.F. Brandon, The judgment of the dead, London I967, pp. I 19-29, and J. Fournee, "L'archange de la mort et du jugement," in Millenaire monastique du Mont Saint-Michel, vol. 3, Culte de Saint Michel et pelerinages au mont, Paris I971, pp. 79-82.


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The Beaune Last Judgment and the Mass of the Dead

ever, that Rogier's interpretation is as pessimistic as some writers have claimed.62 That it is a typically Ro-

gerian solution is suggested by the fact that the position of the scales was changed during the execution of the

painting.63 Rogier, who often conveyed symbolic mes-

sages through compositional motifs, thereby designated Christ as the judge in the psychostasis and Michael as his assistant.64

The emphasis on St Michael in the Beaune altarpiece also recalls his traditional association with Christ. The

archangel's triumph over the dragon was often com-

pared to Christ's victory over death. During his discus- sion of St Michael in his widely read Rationale divinorum

offciorum, for instance, Durandus explained that this battle must be interpreted allegorically; in his conquest of evil, St Michael signifies Christ.65 Rogier seems to have expressed this symbolism through the parallel ges- tures of St Michael and Christ, as well as through their

portrayal in similar sizes and on the same vertical axis. The strongest justification for the prominence of the

archangel in Rogier's polyptych is, however, his func- tion as the protector of the dead.66 Honored in shrines on the highest mountaintops and depicted often in cem-

etery chapels, Michael was praised as the messenger of heaven and the guardian of the dead.67 In the liturgy, he is characterized as the leader of the blessed to Paradise, as, for instance, in the Offertory of the Requiem Mass: "Let Saint Michael the standard-bearer bring them into that holy light which thou of old didst promise to Abra-

62 Such as Panofsky, op. cit. (note 36), pp. 271-72. 63 Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note 36), p. 22; idem., op. cit. (note

i), pp. 8, 22, 33, 93, pls. cxcvi, cxcvlI and cc; idem, op. cit. (note 32), p. 173; and idem, op. cit. (note 3), p. I .

64 Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. 34, reviewed other ex- planations for this reversal and proposed Honorius of Autun's Eluci- darium as Rogier's source (citing Veronee-Verhaegen, op. cit. (note 36), pp. 25-27). Feder, op. cit. (note i), p. 141, also mentioned this source, without reference to Veronee-Verhaegen.

65 Bk. vii, ch. xii, pt. vii; see Rational ou manuel des divins offices de Guillaume Durand, vol. 5, trans. C. Barthelemy, Paris 1854, p. 58. This thirteenth-century treatise was still popular in the fifteenth century. On the parallels between St Michael and Christ, see esp. F. Avril, "Interpretations symboliques du combat de Saint Michel et du dra- gon," in Millenaire, cit. (note 6i), pp. 40-49.

66 This role was stressed by McNamee (note 32); cf. Veronee- Verhaegen, op. cit. (note I), p. 35, with additional bibliography.

67 See esp. E. Mile, Religious art in France: x I I century, trans. D. Nussey, London & New York 1913, pp. 377-78; H. Leclercq, "Michel (culte du saint)," in Dictionnaire d'archeologie chritienne et de liturgie, ed. F. Cabrol and H. Leclercq, vol. 1, pt. i, Paris 1933, p. 905; and M.

I7 Christ and St Michael, detail of fig. i

Martens, "Symbolisme du culte dans sa conjonction du sacre et du profane," in Saint Michel et sa symbolique, Brussels 1979, pp. 122-23. For Michael as the patron of cemetery chapels, see du Broc de Se- gange, op. cit. (note 28), vol. I, p. 339; R6au, op. cit. (note 28), vol. 2, pt. I, p. 46; Fourn6e, op. cit. (note 61), pp. 69-70; and M. Baudot, "Saint Michel dans la legende m6di6vale," in Millinaire, cit. (note 6i), p. 3 . Convincing arguments against the popular belief that Michael was associated with Mercury will be found in O. Rojdestvensky, Le culte de Saint Michel et le moyen dge latin, Paris 1922, passim, and Fourn6e, op. cit. (note 61), pp. 88-91.


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ham and his posterity."68 Similar prayers occur in the Office of the Feast of St Michael on 29 September. The antiphon of the third nocturn of Matins on that day, for instance, refers to the archangel as "God's messenger for virtuous souls."69 Other prayers in this Office iden- tify him as the "prince and guardian over all the souls on their journey home" and the "prince of Paradise."70 Durandus's description of St Michael summarizes these passages: "It is he who is the chief and the guardian of Paradise; it is he who is charged to receive the souls and who is the prince of the church."71

St Michael's power as the guardian of the dead was one of the reasons for his popularity throughout western Europe in the Middle Ages. Among the numerous cities that claimed his patronage was Brussels,72 where Rogier van der Weyden, the official city painter, produced the Beaune altarpiece. In France, the cult of St Michael was especially strong in the fifteenth century, perhaps partly as a result of his alleged appearances to Joan of ArC,73

68 "...signifer sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam: quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus;" Missal, cit. (note 50), p. 234*. Among those who have cited this passage as proof of Michael's function as the guardian of the dead are du Broc de Segange, op. cit. (note 28), vol. I, p. 339; K. Escher, "Die Engel am franzosischen Grabmal des Mittelalters und ihre Beziehungen zur Liturgie," Reper- torium'fur Kunstwissenschaft 35 (I912), p. IIo; Mile, op. cit. (note 67), p. 378; Fournee, op. cit. (note 6I), p. 75; and M. Baudot, "Saint Michel dans la liturgie chretienne," in Millenaire, cit. (note 6I), p. 27. For the beginning of the Offertory, see note 53 above.

69 "Angelus Archangelus Michael, Dei nuntius pro animabus ius- tis;" Hours of the Divine Office, cit. (note 49), vol. 3, pp. 1597 and 1598. See also S.W. Lawley, (ed.), Breviarium ad usum insignis ecclesiae Eboracensis, vol. 2 (Publications of the Surtees Society, vol. 75), Dur- ham 1883, p. 583. For this and similar passages in the Office of 29 September, see Fournee, op. cit. (note 6I), p. 70.

70 "Archangele Michael, constitui te principem super omnes ani- mas suscipiendas;" Hours of the Divine Office, cit. (note 49), vol. 3, pp. 1583 and 1604, and "Archangelus Michael praepositus paradisi;"

and numerous pilgrimages that were made to Mont- Saint-Michel during times of epidemic attest to a wide- spread belief in his ability to intercede against disease.74

The patients at the H6tel-Dieu in Beaune were not able to travel to Mont-Saint-Michel to ask for St Mi- chael's protection, but they could gaze on his figure immediately above the altar of the chapel every time the altarpiece was opened. Like Saints Anthony and Sebas- tian on the exterior of the polyptych, the archangel of- fered the patients the hope that they would overcome their physical ills. But St Michael also helped alleviate their spiritual anxieties. As the central focus of the Last Judgment, his image assured both the donors and the patients in the ward that he would lead them to Paradise as promised in the Requiem Mass.



ibid., p. 1595. See also Lawley, op. cit. (note 69), pp. 587 and 58o. For additional fifteenth-century prayers emphasizing this theme, see Escher, op. cit. (note 68), pp. 111-12.

71 Rationale divinorum officiorum, bk. vii, ch. xii, pt. iv; Rational, cit. (note 65), p. 56.

72 For Michael as the patron saint of Brussels, see esp. M. Martens, "Le culte de Saint Michel en Belgique," in Millinaire, cit. (note 6i), pp. 429-30.

73 On the cult of St Michael in this period, see M. Baudot, "Diffu- sion et evolution du culte de Saint-Michel en France," in Millenaire, cit. (note 6i), pp. 1o7-o8, and M. de Waha, "Le dragon terrasse, theme triomphal depuis Constantin," in Saint Michel et sa symbolique, Brussels I979, pp. 81-94.

74 One such pilgrimage occurred during an epidemic of 1441-42, immediately before Rolin's foundation of the hospital at Beaune; see J. Delalande, Les extraordinaires croisades d'enfants et de pastoureaux au moyen dge, Paris I962, p. 84, and E.R. Labande, "Les pelerinages au mont Saint-Michel pendant le moyen age," in Millenaire, cit. (note 6i), p. 246.