The Last Judgment

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, is at first less viscerally scary than other Last Judgments. All the Risen, even the Damned, are portrayed against the blue of the sky. Look more closely, though, and many are terrified. Of these two details, which are damned, and which saved?

After you see Jesus, wounded in feet and side, with his hand raised, saying “Depart from me,” it is clear. Then I see the incomprehension of the Damned. They do not understand. The saved man is fearful. His crotch is weird. Most genitals here are covered. I find Christ condemning deeply disturbing. Could I be on his left hand?

Down below we see the corpses rising and coming to life. One is clearly a skeleton, but the flesh will be added momentarily.

On Jesus’ right, they are helping each other up.

On his left, they are fighting, and tearing each other down.

At the bottom on the left, there are demons, and the first sight of the fires of Hell.

On Jesus’ right, our left, people cling to the Cross. One holds the crown of thorns, almost as if to place it on Jesus’ head.

On his left, they cling to a Doric column, perhaps symbolising ancient learning. It is not enough to be saved.

Here is the whole painting. I am disturbed to note the Melancholiac sits on Christ’s left. All that bare flesh! All that gorgeous musculature!

4 thoughts on “The Last Judgment

  1. If (as early Quakers, and others) contend, it is the Spirit of Christ that convicts us of sin, then the damned don’t know it. And those who believe they are damned are saved. So of course Michelangelo places himself amongst the lost. It is the safest place to be.


    • Welcome, David, and thank you for commenting. Oops.

      I went to Wikipedia, and read the general interpretation. The Damned begin below Jesus’ feet, to the left of the Melancholiac. The people in the first detail here include Peter, returning his keys.

      This is the Michelangelo portrait, on the flayed skin of St Bartholomew, who is restored, who grasps the corner of Jesus’ robe:

      and here is St Catherine, with a broken fragment of her wheel:


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