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by Archaeology Newsroom

Judas’ Suicide by Hanging in Byzantine Art

The Gospel tradition concerning the death of Judas has exercised an important influence on the iconography of this subject already since the first centuries of the Christian age. The pictorial representation of Judas’ suicide by hanging in illustrated manuscripts of the Middle Byzantine period (Psalters with marginal illuminations, Lectionaries, Four Gospels) is based on the tradition of the Gospels and the pateric literature, in the framework of the interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew and the psalm 108. In the Palaeologan period the representation of this subject is enriched with new iconographic data. They originate from the visual tradition of the two aforementioned texts and from other accounts of Juda’s death, that of Papias of Hierapolis being the most characteristic and influential. The fall of Judas from the tree and the representation of his figure in a cavernous hollow are the new iconographic vocabulary that is introduced in the Palaeologan painting, judging from the monuments preserved so far. In the iconographic program of this era Judas’s suicide by hanging belongs to a group of scenes that thoroughly narrate the episodes related to the Betrayal, thus extending the Cycle of Christ’s Passion.