January 18, 2023

The Depiction of the Three Temptations of Christ in a Church of Kastoria

Jesus Christ, immediately after His baptism in the Jordan River, was led by the Holy Spirit to the Judean desert to be tempted and tested morally as a man. There He remained and lived forty days with absolute fasting and constant prayer. During these days He was severely tempted three times by the Devil. These temptations of His are recounted by the three Synoptic Evangelists in their divinely inspired works.

The three demonic temptations presented here, which Christ successfully repelled, were apparently communicated by the Lord Himself to His disciples, with the aim of communicating them to all Christians, so that they (Christians) too would follow His example, i.e. resist the corresponding temptations that constantly present themselves in their lives.

With reference to the symbolic content and the corresponding meaning of the three temptations in question, some Fathers of our Church and ecclesiastical writers consider that each of the temptations includes, hides and indicates accordingly a specific great sin. Thus, Saint Maximus the Confessor (580–662 AD) believes that the first temptation symbolically expresses disgusting gluttony, the second temptation hateful avarice and the third hideous vainglory.

The thematic mural depiction of the three temptations that the devil unsuccessfully put to Christ can be found in the Byzantine Sacred Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa in Kastoria (11th century), and more specifically in the post-Byzantine Chapel of Saint John the Theologian (16th century). This depiction was painted by the iconographer Prothonotary of Arta Eustathios Iakovos, in the year 1552.

It is a composition of three individual scenes - images. The first of these images shows Christ standing next to a pile of white stones and reviling the Devil, who is represented as a small, misshapen, jet-black, winged and hairy goblin. The second image shows Christ standing on the roof of Solomon's temple and expelling from Him the hideous Satan. Finally, the third depiction presents Christ at the foot of a high mountain, the since-named Sarantarios Mountain, standing next to three crowned kings, symbolizing the kingdoms being granted to Him by the Devil, who is running to disappear climbing the mountain.

The Angels, who according to the Evangelist Matthew "approached and ministered to Him", are absent from the entire scene.

In the plain background of the described mural, almost the entire Gospel passage of the Gospel according to Matthew, which presents the three temptations of Christ, is inscribed.

The three temptations of Christ in the desert is the story of the great confrontation between Christ and Satan, which is one of the main themes of the Synoptic Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke. To every temptation, Christ answers with verses from Holy Scripture, thus proving His absolute devotion to God and the rejection of temptations. We also note that the examined fresco of the temptations of Jesus Christ, found in the Chapel of Saint John the Theologian, was made to prevent its Christian viewers from sinning, and indeed it achieves its purpose. It is a very educational scene and therefore very interesting.


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