Take Five: Cross-Cultural Representations of the Divine

Religious iconography, repurposed statues, and medieval frescoes from around the globe.

by Lili Siegenthaler
September 10, 2009
Welcome to Take Five, a new blog feature in which your host, Lili, showcases CyArk's top five photos in a given theme. Today we take a few looks at religious imagery from around the world: Germany, Cambodia, Egypt, Italy, and Brazil. The links following each entry will take you to the information page for each image on the CyArk website.


Vishnu, one of the three major gods in Hinduism, stands at the entrance to the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Though originally devoted to the Hindu faith, Angkor Wat went through several changes between Hinduism and Buddhism; yet the original Hindu imagery still remains and is tended to, as Vishnu's sparkling new orange robe can attest.
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This image of Christ flanked by two supporting figures (possibly the prophets Moses and Elijah) is painted on the ceiling of a Carmelite church in Weißenburg, Bavaria (now in Germany). The painting was completed during a restoration of the church in 1788. We here at CyArk are particularly fascinated by the undeniably joyful expression on the face of Christ, who so often is shown as despondent or serene.
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Four giant statues of the pharaoh Ramesses II - designed to identify him with Osiris, the powerful Egyptian god of the dead - serve as pillars to support the roof of a structure in the Ramesseum at Thebes, Egypt. Each one holds the ceremonial crook and flail, a symbol of the pharaoh's metaphorical role as "shepherd of the people". Each statue, too, has been beheaded by vandals. Near the feet of the second statue from the left is an enormous granite head, also thought to be a representation of Ramesses.
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As much a monument to colonialism as to its patron saint, the Cross of Sao Francisco rises above the Praca Anchieta Plaza in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. The old town center of Salvador de Bahia was named Pelourinho, or "whipping post", which is an accurate marker of the scale of the slave trade in Brazil at that time.
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The only surviving fragment of the statue to Jupiter in his Capitoline temple now sits atop this brick and concrete pillar in the middle of the ruined Forum in Pompeii. The sculptural style is typical of provincial Roman art: while the proportions of the face follow the typical classical ideal , they are far from perfect. This particular Jupiter, with his sad mouth and broad nose, has a sense of grief about him - fitting for the father god of a fallen city.
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Thanks for joining us at Take Five, folks! Tune in next time for Take Five: Nineveh, an in-depth look at an ancient city of Mesopotamia.