Right Side of the Apse at St. John's, Taufers, Italy


The upper register has Moses bringing the tablets of the Law to the Israelites, who are wearing the pointed hat that Jews were required to wear in medieval Europe. Moses, however wears a sort of loose snood on his head. Unlike the elderly Moses of later medieval images, he has a short red beard. Nor has the artist given him the rays or horns that will later be standard in Moses images.

The figures in the middle are probably prophets.

In the bottom register several human figures are stretched out in the river where Christ is being baptized. This may be explained by the exegetical and liturgical tradition of associating baptism with Noah's Flood and the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea.

This tradition builds on 1 Peter 3:20-21 ("In the days of Noe…eight souls were saved by water, whereunto Baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also"). First Corinthians (10:1-2) says the Israelites passing through the waters were "baptized into Moses." Many exegetes in the ensuing centuries continued to emphasize these connections. In the 3rd century, for example, Tertullian called the Flood the "baptism of the world…by which ancient sins were washed away" and saw in the Pharaoh's drowning the liberation of Baptism, whereby people "forsake their original oppressor, the devil, who is drowned in that water" (quoted in Jensen, Baptismal Imagery, 18 and 20).

The Easter Vigil baptismal liturgy likewise includes a reading of the passage from Exodus on the Crossing of the Red Sea. This tradition goes back at least to the 4th century (Senn, 158), and in the West it continues to this day and is seconded by the Exultet, a chant sung by the deacon including the verse "This is the night, when once you led our forebears, Israel's children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea" (Easter Vigil Readings).

Images of the Flood sometimes include stretched-out bodies much like those in the Taufers Baptism. One example is in the Ashburnham Pentateuch. Another is a mosaic in the cathedral at Monreale.

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Read more about images of Moses, Noah, and the baptism of Christ.

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