What does the devil look like? This is how people saw it in different historical periods

(ORDO NEWS) — Over the years, the Prince of Darkness has been portrayed in a variety of guises – from a fallen angel to a bearded, red-haired man with horns.

The figure of Satan, as it is understood today, is the result of centuries of development in art, literature, and theatre.

The devil did not always look the way we imagine him. This creature in art has undergone a lot of transformations. Here are the most important ones.

In the Old Testament Genesis, the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit in Eden is commonly associated with Satan.

However, the original Hebrew text does not give such a name to the creature that convinces Adam and Eve to eat the fruit.

According to Marina Montesano, professor of medieval history at the University of Messina in Italy, the only mention of the word “Satan” in the Hebrew Bible means “adversary”, “obstacle” or “enemy” and can refer to either human antagonists or supernatural beings.

Only later, in the New Testament, is Satan explicitly referred to as a serpent. Despite this, snakes are still commonly associated in art with the devil.

How Satan was drawn before

The earliest known depiction of Satan is on a sixth-century mosaic in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy.

The image showed the devil in the form of a blue angel. At first, Satan was perceived as such, but this image was eventually discarded in favor of a more demonic appearance with animalistic features.

The Devil in the Middle Ages was usually depicted as looking like a dragon. For example, an early pope known as Saint Sylvester reportedly slew a diabolical dragon, impressing a group of pagan priests and reaffirming the Roman Emperor Constantine’s Christian faith.

However, while mythical creatures were often associated with the devil during the medieval period, the same can be said for real animals.

According to the British Library, many medieval depictions of the devil have animalistic features, including iconic cloven hooves, tails, claws and even webbed hands.

What does the devil look like This is how people saw it in different historical periods 2

The 14th-century poem Inferno, written by Dante Alighieri as part of his Divine Comedy, follows a fictional journey through the seven circles that make up hell before the protagonist comes face to face with Satan himself.

Dante describes Satan as a creature with two mighty wings, befitting a large bird, but on which there were no feathers, but membranes. Thus, the wings of the devil rather resembled the wings of a bat.

An obvious early connection between Satan and goats is found in the mosaic of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, built at the end of the 6th century in Italy.

On the mosaic, a blue angel to the left of Jesus stands behind three goats, while next to the angel to the right of Jesus are three sheep.

The illustration is a parable from Matthew 25:31-46: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

All nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.

In this story, the goat is associated with those who do not go to heaven. Some art historians claim that it is thanks to this mosaic that the devil and his minions got their horns.

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