Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Skulls: the inside story part 3

In Skulls: the inside story and in Part 2 a couple of days ago, I introduced an interesting 16th-century paternoster made of skulls and described the tiny scenes carved inside each bead. I've been thinking about what's there and what's not, and how the (presumably) ten skull-beads of the original might have been arranged before some of the parts were lost.

The Last Supper is such a crucial scene in the life of Christ that it's hard to imagine it not being part of a series of scenes from his life. Similarly, I would expect the Crucifixion and the Resurrection to be included. Perhaps these three were removed to be "recycled" in some other context?

Boxwood pendant

As I've mentioned, we also see these little Mexican carvings used in devotional jewelry, like the pendant shown above, and sometimes to decorate church vessels of one sort or another. These scenes in particular are fairly self-explanatory and could well be used alone.

Here's my guess at the missing parts.

As I've hypothesized it, we have the washing of the disciples' feet in 4a, and a logical place for the Last Supper would be 4b.

Skulls 5 and 6 would have the preliminary Passion scenes: Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives, the kiss of Judas, the scourging and the crowning with thorns.

Another scene that might be missing -- it's the only missing one among the five "Sorrowful Mysteries" that are part of the rosary meditation -- is Christ carrying the cross through the streets. That could be 7a, and the Crucifixion (why is that such a hard word to type correctly?) could be 7b.

This would put the Pieta in 8a, and the Resurrection might be in 8b.

This leaves 9a and 9b to account for. I would guess that 9a would be the Ascension, and if that's so, then 9b would be some sort of triumphal final scene.

Looking at the kinds of scenes that have traditionally been included in the "mysteries" meditated on while praying the rosary, this could be any one of several things. Leading candidates include the descent of the Holy Spirit, the coronation of the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven, and the Last Judgement. In some versions of the rosary, the Last Judgement was the last Mystery until it was replaced in later years by the coronation of Mary, due to increased desire to honor Mary and an increasing belief that she was "assumed" into heaven rather than dying in the normal way.

Posts in this series:

Death's head devotions
Skully bits
Skulls: the inside story
Skulls: the inside story, part 2
Skulls: the inside story, part 3
Voldemort, part 2
A skull of one's own
More living color