Adam and Eve from Hildesheim

Adam and Eve from Hildesheim

In about 1015 the magnificent doors of Hildesheim Cathedral were built. By today’s standards, they were primitive, but in their day they were considered the height of lifelike bas relief and sculpture. It is because of this earnest naivete that I find this work so charming.

As you can see, Adam and Eve have been caught disobeying The Lord who is SO angry at them he is standing on his toes, jolting forward, and pointing down at them and thundering his disapproval. You can just hear him say,”All I asked was that you do ONE simple thing for me and you can’t do it!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Adam and Eve are writhing with misery under a curios looking giant weed which seems to be one of the few plants in the Garden of Eden! It resembles something you would pull out of any flowerbed without any of the gravity of the Tree of the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil BUT I think it is very effective.

Wretched Adam is bug eyed with fear. Evidently he has never seen The Lord angry before. He clutches his fig leaf in shame and squeals on his mate, Eve. “She did it, she made me do it. I would not have eaten or touched it had it not been for the woman you gave me!”

Poor Eve, there isn’t much to be done for her, is there? She looks like she is trying to reason with Adam (not God) and points to The Snake as if to say,”But Adam, it was The Snake who promised to make us as God himself.” And truly she didn’t know much of lying, I think, so she is doubly betrayed by The Serpent.

As for The Snake, he is mute but rolls and writhes about ineffectively corkscrewing in front of the furious Lord.

So, most of the characters are finger-pointing and exhibiting great emotion which pushes the story into a realm where we can all relate: as children who are caught doing precisely what they were told not do. I have not seen a more powerful image of the wages of disobedience. Though the Renaissance painters might do a more perfect job of rendering the body, and such Masters as Bernini make much of flesh in hard substance, I don’t think that any other artist has done so well at telling the story than this anonymous sculptor of the doors of Hildesheim in Germany.

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