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Evil, Sexuality, and Disease in…
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Evil, Sexuality, and Disease in Grunewald's Body of Christ

by Eugene Monick

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This is an extended meditation by Eugene Monick (1929-2007), Episcopalian priest turned Jungian analyst, on Matthias Grunewald's crucifixion altarpiece at Isenhein. The image of the bruised and scarified body of the tortured Christ reverberates in memory for the peculiar horror one feels at the sight of injuries deliberately inflicted. Monick includes a foldout depiction of several panels of the altarpiece. (Wikipedia provides a better explanation than Monick of the arrangement of the twelve panels of the painting) The Isenheim crucifixion was one of four painted by Grunewald, each presenting variations on the theme of the bruised and suffering body of Christ. The Isenhein altarpiece was commissioned by the Brothers of St Anthony for its chapel at Isenhein, which was a hospice for men suffering from the disease or diseases known as St Anthony's Fire. Monick begins his meditation with an invitation to his reader to accompany him in a fantasy. There are, in fact, several fantasies. One will do for the purposes of illustration. It is that the sick men at Isenhein suffered from syphilis and the crucified body of the altarpiece is that of a man in the terminal stage of syphilis. The theological or therapeutic point of this identification is that only a Christ in this extreme state of debilitation could offer comfort or hope to the sick men of Isenheim or, by extension, hope for the sick and injured condition of humanity now.

A quick Google search suggests that Monick was a well respected and well loved member of the Jungian community. For an outsider who is unsympathetic to Jungian theory, Monick's meditation on the Isenhein altarpiece can be read, with a degree of gruesome fascination, as a case study of intellectual aberration. ( )
  LeaderElliott | Mar 2, 2013 |
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