The Apostles’ Creed declares of Jesus that ‘he descended into hell,’ or as some traditions render it, ‘he descended to the dead.’ Several Christian traditions speak of that descent as the Harrowing of Hell. Traditional icons of the Harrowing of Hell depict Jesus standing over the broken gates of hell, which have fallen across themselves in the shape of a cross; and leading our first parents Adam and Eve out from captivity to spiritual death. Here I share Lyuba Yatskiv’s new interpretation of ‘the Descent into Hell.’ You can just make out the gates of hell beneath Jesus’ feet, and beneath them she has depicted Satan as the strong man who has been bound in order that his house may be plundered, a reference to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 12 // Mark 3 // Luke 11.
Today, as I walked between presiding at the eucharist at St Nicholas’ and presiding at the eucharist at Sunderland Minster, I came across an abandoned gate, propped up at an angle against a burnt wall, waiting to be taken away. And it put me in mind of the Harrowing of Hell.