Giovanni Pisano, The Last Judgement, the ambo, Sant’ Andrea Pistoia, 1301
Margaret Spufford once complained that the blessed too often look “stuffed”. Not here. Christ is seated above the cross, the abiding symbol of flawed human judgement. Wounded by love, he is now the judge, and his justice never sways. To the right, the movement is chaotic. Damnation is violent because it belongs to the possessive: there is no community there. To the left, those still figures have not been stuffed; theirs is the confidence of salvation. Here, God’s eternal justice meets the reality of human sin. Pisano handles that deftly and unusually: the damned are pulled downwards by their heads, the blessed are greeted by angels who touch their faces. Principle gets personal here, as humanity finds what it has sought. Glance at this, and walk on. It is not this ambo but the altar that is our destination in this church. There this same Christ will meet us as redeemer.
David Hoyle, Dean of Bristol