The Post-Resurrection Appearances of Christ: The case of the Chairete or ‘All Hail’
By Polyvios Konis
Rosetta: Papers of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, Issue 1 (2007)
Abstract: The Apparition of Christ to the Holy Women, or Chairete (All Hail), is one of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances and is described in the Gospel of Matthew (28: 9-10). According to the Evangelist, two women – namely Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – after discovering the empty tomb, came across the resurrected Christ and he hailed them. Since the actual moment of Christ’s resurrection is not described in the Gospels, the post-resurrection appearances served as the visual synonym of the Anastasis (Resurrection). The Chairete scene was popular, especially in the early centuries. Even until the Middle Byzantine period this scene appeared regularly either side by side with the Anastasis or sometimes bypassing it altogether. The evolution of this iconographic theme is presented in this paper.
Introduction: The post-resurrection appearances of Christ are a series of apparitions described in the four canonical Gospels and the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. In the absence of any canonical description about Christ’s actual moment of resurrection, these apparitions became a visual and literal synonym and evidently confirmed the reality of Christ’s resurrection. The details in such descriptions are not necessarily consistent: the number of angels and women differ in each Gospel; the time of Christ’s appearance to them differs as well; and while Paul mentions Peter as the first to see Christ resurrected, the Marys (or Myrrh-bearers) are the individuals described by the Gospels as first at the tomb. The most popular apparitions were: the Incredulity of Thomas, an event exclusive in John; the Appearance to the Eleven, described by all four Gospels and sometimes fused with the Mission of the Apostles; the Marys at the Tomb described with variations again by the four Gospels; and the Chairete.
The Chairete is a unique event described by Matthew. According to the Evangelist, two women, namely Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of Jacob and Joses) discovered Christ’s empty tomb and when they saw the resurrected Christ, he hailed them. Fourth century commentators equate the ‘other Mary’ with the Virgin. The Gospel of John (20: 14-18) and the longer ending of Mark (16: 9) describe a similar event, but with only one woman – Mary Magdalene. This is called the Apparition of Christ to Mary Magdalene or Noli me Tangere (Touch Me Not). The latter appears rarely and usually very late on in Byzantine Art. It never acquired the importance that the Chairete scene had, especially in the early centuries. The Chairete’s importance is obvious, even in the Middle Byzantine period, where it appeared regularly either side by side with the Anastasis or sometimes bypassing it, as in the case of Paris gr. 510. What follows is a description of the artistic and literary evidence from the 4th to the 12th centuries, which will illustrate the evolution of this iconographical theme and explain the connotations it acquired in theological literature. The inclusion of the Virgin in the scene will also receive attention as it adds to the theme’s significance.