Sunday, 7 December 2008

Clovis is Baptised

I could write an entire Fear and Trembling style book about this image (a painting from c.1500, apparently). This is the baptism of the legendary first king of France, Clovis I, who reined from the last decades of the 5th century until his death in 511. He converted to Christianity in the starting point for the tradition of Catholic France ruled by a Catholic monarch. This image, in other words, is a mythic point of origin. The king embraces Christianity, and sets the nation on its Catholic road: except that he embraces Christianity inside an already completed medieval Christian Cathedral. According to the logic of the image, the structures of Catholicism are already there, prefabricated; the tree already fully grown and waiting only to have the acorn symbolically and ritualistically embedded at its root. This inversion is enormously eloquent of the logic of the incarnation itself: the world made by God, this fantastically ornate structure, that is nevertheless void, waiting for the entrance of Christ thousands (no, billions) of years later: the owner-occupier and architect turning up to make his house on the spot on which his house is already completely built.

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