The Baptism of Christ

Church of St. John, Taufers im Münstertal, Italy

John places his hand on the head of Jesus, who stands in the Jordan wearing a perizoma like the one we see in Crucifixion images. The scroll behind Jesus' back is now faded and illegible, but a good guess is that it once featured the Latin for "This is my beloved son."

As usual, Jesus' garment is held by an angel on the right bank. But it is not at all usual to picture a vast assembly of haloed angels and saints on the two banks, occupying fully two thirds of the composition. Their presence puts the baptism in the perspective of eternity.

The twisted bodies submerged in the river represent the sins that are washed away in Christian baptism. In the commentaries those who died in Noah's flood represent the sins that the sacrament cleanses (Jensen, 18).

This image in full resolution
More of the Baptism of Christ

Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.