Anastasis

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Anastasis

 

            This fresco of the Descent of Christ into Limbo, also known as the Harrowing of Hell, and in the East as the Anastasis, was discovered in 1868. It was the last fresco to be found by Fr Mullooly in his excavations of the fourth-century basilica.

The fresco depicts the Lord Jesus Christ after his death, surrounded by glory and bearing his Cross like a standard, descending into the Underworld to rescue the souls of those who had died before his coming.

He treads on a demon who, amid the tongues of flame, has taken hold of Adam’s foot. The scene celebrates the Lord’s victory over the bonds of death and the power of the devil.

To the left and separated from the main scene by a spiral column there is a painting of a figure carrying a Book of the Gospels. His beard and decorated hood indicate that he is an Eastern monk.

The fresco appears to have been part of the funeral monument of this monk who was buried here. The position and character of the tomb, corresponding as it does with contemporary accounts of his funeral in the Basilica di San Clemente, has recently led scholars to propose that this is the original tomb and portrait of St Cyril, the Apostle of the Slavs.

In collaboration with the Irish Dominican Fathers, the fresco was restored in 2005 by the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, through the generosity of the Paola Droghetti Foundation.