The term Deesis ( ancient Greek δέησις, "Please ", " supplication ", " prayer " ) refers to the argument of an originally usually probably selfish concern in both the secular and legal as well as in the religious sphere. In the Byzantine Empire the term was used among other things for profane, addressed to the Emperor petitions. In the language of modern art history, the meaning of the term, however, is on the religious principle and the benefit of others intercession (Latin intercessio ) limited and related technical term as a motif of Christian iconography. This motif is usually a three- figure group with Christ at the center as well as the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist at his sides. Mary and John raise both arms and turn Christ in a humble and fervent attitude to (so-called orante-pose ). Are there any other saint in the same or a similar attitude in addition to Mary and the Baptist, one speaks of a "big deesis ".

Origin of the motif

This image appeared on secured only after the end of Byzantine iconoclasm. Dating from around 900 AD. it has come down in provincial Byzantine works from Cappadocia on us ( among other things from the Ayvalı - Kilise in Güllüdere Valley near Çavuşin ). The earliest surviving examples from Konstantin Opel date from the 10th century and are the work of the cabaret as the email Limburg reliquary or ivory triptych of Harbaville in the Louvre. The monumental Deesis mosaic on the south gallery of Hagia Sophia dates from the 13th century. Another main urban Deesis mosaic is preserved in the Pammakaristos church.

Deesis as an element of the Last Judgment

Since the 11th century the so-called " small Deesis " with Christ, Mary and the Baptist is also a central component of Byzantine paintings of the Last Judgment, as already in the earliest miniature on this issue, the Journal 51v. of Illumination "Ms. Grec 74 " at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. From this constellation of the judge with the Mother of God and the Baptist as intercession ends pictures of Judgment have been inspired in the occidental area until the post-medieval period, such as the Last Judgement of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, from the Renaissance period or judgment Day by Peter Paul Rubens from the Baroque period.

The Deesis in the West

Since the 12th century the Deesis also appears in the Roman -Latin culture, first in the Italic contact centers to the Byzantine Empire, such as in a mosaic in the apse of a monastery church at Murano in the Venetian Lagoon, which is today in the Church of Peace located in Potsdam. Since the 13th century the Deesis also occurs north of the Alps and is again here for part of larger representations of the Last Judgment, such as in one of the portals of the Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims. For representations with John the Evangelist in place of John the Baptist as the world court also Gothic portal of Notre -Dame de Paris Cathedral spiritual roots of their own Western- Latin Deesis conception have been discovered in the high medieval scholasticism.

Spiritual Foundations of Deesis

From the Bible or other legends no narrative as a template for the photo on the Deesis is known. The religious concept of invocation of God 's Prayer for the welfare or the peace of mind of other living or dead people or of humanity is historically attested in the cultural area of the Levant well before the origin of Christianity. At the core of this concept, the idea is that certain saints are particularly suitable due to their proximity to God as intercessor or promise special success. This idea is also expressed in the New Testament: "Therefore ... pray for one another .... Availeth much fervent prayer of a righteous man " ( James 5:16 ). Mary and the Baptist are considered to be particularly suitable. According to the Eastern Orthodox theology and popular piety John Baptist is considered as the Creator of a second birth of Jesus in the heavenly hierarchy and takes a special position, according to Maria, but before the apostles. According to recent research, the concept of Deesis remains but still be given, if not the Baptist, sometimes not even Mary, but other saints appear in a corresponding image.

Picture and name as " Deesis "

As the oldest evidence of the name of an image as " Deesis " there is a description of the hermitage of the monk Symeon of Constantinople Opel, which dates from the second half of the 11th century. From the looks of the image there is nothing, however, survived. For the period of the Byzantine Empire only about twenty works of art are enumerated in the research, which have been explicitly designated in inscriptions or inscriptions or contemporary inventories as " Deesis ". After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the original Greek term was held in the Russian cultural space for the description of images of saints intercede before Christ and has come from there in 1900 in the parlance of modern art history.

A world court in miniature?

In research, it is debatable whether the Deesis a single picture with three or more little figures available as part of the whole, or as a visual shortcut ( abbreviation ) of the court issue outside of major representations of the Last Judgment. In question, then, is whether Christ in the small or large Deesis is always to be understood as a judge, even if otherwise the image is no evidence to the court. In contrast, it is argued that Christ in court images always a movement of the hands shows with which he separates the good ones on his right hand from the bad guys to his left (as he has predicted according to the Gospel of Matthew himself: " All the nations will in front of him be gathered and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats " (Matt. 25.32 ) ). For the vagina gesture, there are numerous variants: Christ opens his hands and raises his arms up or down, it does so in the same or right other than the left so he appears frequently on the other hand, images of Deesis with a gesture of blessing.. As far as Christ does not occur with the gesture of parting, images with a Deesis on this view are not to be understood as images of the Last Judgment. The use of the scene of the Deesis in pictures of the Last Judgment is then to be understood as a special case of Deesis, and the Deesis does not generally always a world court dar.

The interpretation of the image statement as a world court i.Ü. Consequences for the interpretation of the book that holds the blessing Christ on pictures of the small or large Deesis in his left hand. For an interpretation of the Deesis World Court is the " Book of Life" near which, although not in the world court speech of Christ according to Matthew ( Matthew 25,31.46 ) is mentioned, but in the Book of Revelation (Rev 20.12 to 15 ). After the revelation in this book are the candidates / in on the kingdom of heaven recorded (Rev 20:12 u.15; 21:27). As a book in his right hand blessing of Jesus Christ, however, is usually the gospel identified. This interpretation is supported by numerous image examples in which bears the inscription book as a reference to a passage in the Gospels.