Vattnet ovanför. Om den himmelska hydraulikens ikonografi
Title: The Waters Above. The Iconography of Heavenly Hydraulics
Early Christianity had no cosmology of its own and fell back on the ancient Hebrew one, described in Genesis I, where the firmament is understood as a solid (lat. firmus) dome-like structure that separates the water into two parts: the waters above and those below. Beyond the firmament is an immense expanse of water held at bay only by the firmness of the celestial dome, on the inside of which the sun, the moon and the stars are fixed. – From the beginning, however, this primitive worldview had to compete with a very different and more sophisticated cosmos: the Greek. At least since 500 BC they had imagined the earth as spherical and surrounded by the moving spheres of the celestial bodies. The stars were fixed to the outermost, crystal sphere – the equivalent of the Hebrew firmament. Beyond this was the infinite region of fire (or aether), where Christian and Muslim philosophers later installed the empyrean heaven, the dwelling of God. – No such spherical division is found in the Bible, and it was only with Constantine’s legalization of Christianity (313) that the need to visualize the biblical narrative emerged. This article deals with the struggle of artists to concretize and visualize the biblical texts in contexts increasingly dominated by Greco-Roman culture – and to find a place for the waters above.