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Bill Thayer

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Palm Sunday

6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. 8Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

Matthew, ch. 21 (Revised Standard Bible)

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The inscription reads: Christus in die palmarum Ierusalem vadens (close-up); and when the fresco was fresh and new, in the early 14c, the dun-colored cloak on the ground was bright green (like this reconstruction).

The artist has been oddly selective with the gospel details. John (12.12 ff.) mentions no garments strewn on the road, and only one mount. Luke (19.28 ff.) mentions the garments, but again only one mount. So in following the account of Matthew and Mark, if we are shown both the ass and her colt — those gospels very curiously insist that Jesus needed both to ride into Jerusalem — why not the garments thrown on them, much easier to show and make sense of?

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Pulling back to the whole scene shown to us on the wall of the Cappellone: just as the gospel says, not everyone in Jerusalem was enthusiastic; and symmetrically, the artist has shown us disciples rather more concerned and puzzled than getting into the spirit of things. Although never stated, that does fit with the rest of the gospel narrative.

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Page updated: 16 Aug 03