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More on the Sculpture of the West Front of Bath Abbey: Christ of the Charter and Antichrist

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The iconography of the early sixteenth century sculptural program of Bath Abbey's west front has been shown in a previous article (Religion and the Arts, 4.3 (2000), 313-36) to represent an allegory of spiritual ascent through the virtue of humility and descent through the vice of pride, as explained in chapter seven of the Rule of St Benedict. The current article focuses upon two sculptures largely overlooked by the earlier study, the iconography and positioning of which further substantiates the proposed meaning of the program. One sculpture represents Christ as the Man of Sorrows, holding the Charter of Human Redemption (a devotional text widespread in England during the late Middle Ages). The other represents Antichrist, who was a subject of much speculation during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is argued that Christ, standing on the north side of the west front, constitutes an additional symbol of humility, while Antichrist, standing on the south, makes another reference to pride. The iconography of these figures is further analyzed for its intrinsic interest, that of Antichrist being unusual, Christ holding the Charter of Human Redemption all but unique.

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