ASCINATING medieval images of Purgatory are easy to find with a simple Internet search. Google quickly lets our twenty-first-century eyes look inside the folios of myriads of manuscripts, held in libraries throughout the world. There is extraordinary power at our fingertips.
One especially notable Purgatorial scene (shown at right) appears as a miniature detail in the missal of Eberhard von Greiffenklau (c. 1425-1450). This extraordinarily elaborate manuscript is held by the The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and attributed to the Masters of Zwder van Culemborg. The museum webpage dedicated to this volume describes it as “a masterpiece of Dutch manuscript painting.”
This illumination received a brief but excellent analysis in the pages of Magnificat this month (November 2019). The piece is authored by Jennifer Healy, who serves as co-director of the Language & Catechetical Institute and as professor of art history in Gaming, Austria. Her short reflection on this miniature piece of sacred art is worth reading on this commemoration of All Souls.
Image: Souls in Purgatory, Missal of Eberhard von Greiffenklau (W. 174, folio 168v, column miniature) (c. 1425-1450), Masters of Zwder van Culemborg, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore