One of the most well known images of late medieval Christianity is the Crucifixion painted by Matthias Grunewald for the Isenheim Altar an Antonite house which cared for plague victims. The altar itself is enormous. If I was standing in front of it I would be little more then this height. The picture is arresting the outsized image of christ on the cross against a dark background. The gathered figures in red and white on the side panels the figure of Antony and St. Sebastian. And here in the predella, the body of the dead Christ. The scene reflects in so many ways that world of late medieval devotion. Christ on the cross, dead. Having suffered the most extreme punishment for humanity. But, remember this picture was in a plague house, and when one looks at the figure of Christ, and in his skin what do we find? But the very affliction that the people themselves were suffering. His skin is that of a plague victim. Representing that Christ himself suffered for humanity and with humanity. That in suffering, the people are linked with their God. The Son of God has taken on all their afflictions. He is their hope, even in this most terrible scene. The elongated arms, with the fingers outstretched, the nails, all part of the great devotion in the late Medieval world to the body of Christ and to the suffering of Christ. Not only the skin, but we see here from the Crucifixion scene the blood pouring down. The dead body, the blood pouring down the cross unto the ground redeeming the world. Beside him, we have the figure of John the Baptist. Naturally, not a scene from the Bible, because John the Baptist was already dead, and was not at the crucifixion. But he was the last prophet to predict the coming of Christ. It was John who baptized Christ in the river Jordan. It was with John that the dove descends from heaven. And the voice comes from the father, this is my son, in whom I am well pleased John points to the figure of Christ, points to his wounds, and says I shall decrease, as he shall increase. Here we find the tragic figure of Mary, mother of Christ, swooning, eyes closed, and comforted by John the Evangelist. The Evangelist who had spoken of the beginning. The beginning with the word of God. Mary Magdalene on her knees distraught, looking up at the figure of Christ in prayer. But there are other parts of this picture that take us into the world of late medieval devotion. Here, the lamb of God. And when one looks, one sees blood coming from the lamb, and into a chalice. The chalice, and the cup with the bread the eucharistic images, Christ in body and in blood is present in the world through sacrament. >> So this represents Christ, who suffers on the cross, whose very affliction unites him with humanity. A Christ who, in his suffering, reveals himself to be all that one can hope for in a world wracked by plague, disease, and atrocious afflictions suffered. Those images of Christ are reinforced on the panels, where we see here the image of Saint Sebastian. Saint Sebastian, a martyr of early Christianity, but the particular significance here pierced by arrows. Saint Sebastian was the patron saint of plague he reflected again the suffering of the saints for humanity. The saints, as we shall have the chance to talk about were the great intercessors for humanity. So in plague the people could cast their eyes upon the altar and see Christ, but in the company of the patron who would intercede for them. Here we find the figure of Anthony, again extraordinary person of early Christianity of monasticism and whose life is a triumph over the demonic and evil. And remember it is an Antonine House in which this altar appeared. It wasn't his house where the plague victims were being attended to. On the predella here, the body of the dead Christ. One sees here graphically, the affliction of plague on his skin. The women, distraught around the body, preparing for burial. The Isenheim altar represents in so many ways with its striking images the world of the late Medieval christianity. It's powerful focused on the person of Christ In his humanity, the Christocentrism, of the late medieval world is extraordinarily powerful. One sees here the centrality of the sacrament. The Host, the body of Christ. At the very heart of the worship of the Church, the object devotion to be received at least once a year. The devotion to Mary was found in all manner of forms in the late medieval world. She was the mother of Christ, she was the mother of humanity. Christ had pointed to the beloved disciple from the cross and said that she was the mother of all. The expectation of John in pointing to Christ on the cross was also the expectation of Christ coming again, the anticipation of the resurrection and of the end of time. When Christ would return and all would be fulfilled. So in this dreadful scene of crucifixion with Christ with the crown of thorns, we find the whole drama of late medieval Christianity. We find it heart in devotion, to the very wounds that pierced his side. To the blood that flowed down. And to those who stayed with him. To his final moments.