Lorenzo Maitani and Associates, The Baptism of Christ

Circa 1310-31
Relief in stone
West façade, Orvieto Cathedral, Italy

The image follows the ancient tradition of portraying Jesus naked in hip-deep water. The moment shown is immediately after he has been baptized by John, who is now patting him on the shoulder. At this moment, he is being "baptized" by the Holy Spirit, as signified by the dove and the wavy, water-like lines sculpted behind his head.

Usually we see Jesus' hands pressed together in prayer or his arms crossed over his chest to express humility, but here he is blessing the onlookers. According to the gospel commentators his acceptance of baptism made the waters holy and capable of effecting the baptism that has brought the onlookers their salvation.

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