Saturday, November 01, 2008

St John Klimakos

Icon of the Heavenly Ladder of St John Klimakos,
Constantinople or Sinai, late 12th century
Egg-tempera and gold leaf on wood, primed with cloth and gesso
The Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine and the Supreme Council of Antiquities

John Klimakos – John of the Ladder (c 570-649) was a hermit, who became abbot of St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai. In his last years St John resigned his position and returned to the life of a hermit.

Persuaded by Abbot John of Raithu to record the sayings of the Fathers, he encapsulated these in the “The Ladder of Divine Ascent.” His personal comments and anecdotes enliven this account of Christian pilgrimage, appealing to all believers.

St John describes our spiritual journey as a ladder of thirty rungs, the first “hidden” thirty years of Christ’s life. He also bears in mind the ladder in Jacob’s dream, with angels in attendance.

Thus he received the cognomen of “Ladder”, “Klimakos” in the Greek. He encourages Christians to overcome their weaknesses, mental and carnal, to reach the summit, where Love is supreme..

In a Spanish translation from a Latin translation, this was the first book published in the New World (Mexico), in 1532.

The Icon above now on display at The Royal Academy in London shows monks on a ladder to Heaven are being tempted and then picked off by diabolic creatures, dragged to the mouth of Hell with black chains.