Good Friday: the Burial of the Body

We continue the Easter Triduum by moving on to Good Friday.

As the "apex" day of the Passion, the iconography of Good Friday is among the richest in scenes, events, and characters. In addition to the Crucifixion, the Procession to Calvary, and the Pietà - perhaps the most frequently depicted scenes of the Passion in art - we can also count the themes of the Deposition and the Burial of Christ, which are often erroneously confused with each other. The scenes of the Deposition, in fact, are set at the very foot of the Cross and portray characters like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in the act of helping Jesus' body down from the Cross. 

The Burial takes place immediately after the Deposition, when Jesus' lifeless body is lowered into his tomb. The illumination above portrays this very moment. The day is almost over, as shown by the vivid sunset in the background - against which stand out the silhouette of the Calvary and the three crosses. It is imperative, then, to bury Christ as quickly as possible, as the Jewish Law forbids burials after the sun sets on Friday evening and for all of Shabbat.


"Burial of Christ", illumination from a lithurgical book for Holy Week, ms. 0457, f. 041, first half of the 16th century, Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris.

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