Baptism of Christ
The representation of the Baptism of Christ and that of the Preaching of John on the opposite capital (N08PP07) underlines the significance of John the Baptist, whose martyrdom is to be seen in the south wing of the cloister (S11PP39). The capitals with the Baptism of Christ and the Preaching of John are placed on the middle axis of the north wing of the cloister and thus form a caesura in the narrative sequence. The Baptism of Christ, which is celebrated by Orthodox Christians in January, marks the end of the cycle of episodes from the childhood and life of Christ that take place in winter.
The scene of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan is represented on the west side of the capital, which places Christ in the centre. The surface of the body and face of the figure seems rough and apparently unfinished. What we see is a reconstruction of the restorers in 1941, since – as period photographs show – Christ’s body had by this time been destroyed. To the left of Christ stands John the Baptist, who is clad in a garment of camel’s hair, corresponding to the descriptions in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. On the opposite side an angel appears; only the angel’s wings were preserved at the time of restoration. In none of the Gospels that describe the event (Mt 3:13-17, Mk 1:9-11, Lk 3:21-22) is the presence of an angel mentioned; but the inclusion of such a figure could be connected with the liturgical action in which deacons cover the newborn with a garment after baptism.
The Holy Spirit, who takes the form of a dove at the baptism of Christ, is absent here. This is no doubt attributable either to the poor conservation of the capital or to the restoration in the 1940s, so that some caution is needed in interpreting the individual components of this manipulated capital.