The Tree of Jesse Ceiling of Michaeliskirche in Hildesheim

St. Michael's in Hildesheim is a former Benedictine Abbey church which, since the time of the Reformation, has been in Lutheran hands. That said, it still retains a number of its Catholic features and the one in particular that I would like to draw readers attention to today is the painted ceiling which dates to the thirteenth century.  The ceiling is unique insofar as it is a full scale depiction of the Tree of Jesse. 

By way of some background, Jesse was the father of King David, and the prophecy concerning the coming Messiah was that he would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city of Bethlehem. The Tree of Jesse relates then to the genealogy of Jesus Christ in relation to the house of David and the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies in His Person.

A medieval illumination depicting the Jesse tree.

The book of Isaiah makes the reference to this as follows, adopting the imagery of a tree: "On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength; a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." 

Very frequently these depictions have turned up in stained glass windows, icons, manuscript illuminations and so on, but at Michaeliskirche it is taken to a whole other level as you will see. 

The ceiling in question is made from over 1300 oak planks and measures 90 feet by 28 feet. 

Here are some closer looks at the various panels of the ceiling. 

Christ Enthroned

The Blessed Virgin surrounded by the four cardinal virtues



King Solomon

Jesse and King David

Adam and Eve.

Within the circular medallions at the edge of the ceiling are depicted the ancestors of Christ beginning with Abraham. 

In reality, there are simply far too many details here to detail them all, but I would invite readers to take a closer look at each of the panels where you'll find numerous figures of both the Old and New Testaments. You will also get a look at the oak planks that make up the ceiling.

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