The Hospitality of Abraham

12th-13th century
Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily

Except for the absence of the tree this image closely follows the details of Genesis 18:3-8 and the traditional iconography. The three visitors sit at table, where Abraham has already placed the roasted calf and the bowl of butter and milk. He brings a baked loaf while Sarah watches from the entrance of the tabernaculum, which follows the tradition of being pictured as a built structure rather than a tent.

As usual the visitors are pictured as angels even though that word does not appear in the text. Only two of them carry sceptres: the one in the middle holds a scroll, which in these mosaics usually represents the divine authority by which God brings about his will. The divine will referenced in this case is probably the coming birth of a son to Abraham. And the divinity of the visitors was accepted by Christian commentators, who saw them as the Trinity.

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