DIVINE LEGITIMATION OF JUDICIAL POWER AND ITS ICONOGRAPHICAL IMPACT IN WESTERN CULTURE
From a historical and anthropological point of view, there is a close link between religion and the judicial function, in many cultures throughout the world. How could man be competent to judge his equals if he was not empowered to do so by God? In many cultures, originally, the same ‘functionaries’ administer both religious and judicial affairs. In medieval Europe, Christian faith and the Roman Catholic Church play a role of paramount importance in the heart of society, not only for the mere religious services, but also in politics and culture. The influence of the Church on justice administration (both via its own courts and via its interference in secular courts) is enormous. Religious texts are used as legal arguments,2 but also to legitimate the judicial function and its decision makers. And not only texts! Also (religious) images are vehicles of legitimation. The Last Judgment, in the first place, is omnipresent, in manuscripts and printed books, but also as a classical decoration for justice halls. This article looks at a number of concrete examples from art history, and tries to describe and analyse how both the divine word and image were used to legitimize the emerging ‘modern’ courts of Princes and cities. These courts, using the Romano-canonical procedure, are the forerunners of the present day judiciary. Today’s court setting, the use of red robes and green curtains, or the ritual of the oath, are just some remaining, observable aspects of an age-old charismatic, because divine, legitimation, using images as vectors of meaning.