"Judith was left alone in the tent, with Holofernes stretched out on the bed, for he was overcome with wine (Judith 13,2)... She went up to the post at the end of the bed, above Holofernes' head, and took down his sword that hung there. She came close to the bed and took hold of the hair of his head, and said: "Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!". And she struck his neck twice with all her might, and severed his head from his body (Judith 13,6-8)... After a moment she went out and gave Holofernes' head to her maid (Judith 13, 9)".
The Old Testament narrates the episode of Judith who saved her city of Bethulia from the siege of Holofernes, general of the Assyrian king Nabucodonosor, by killing him after a banquet at which he had been made drink, beheading him and bringing his head to his fellow citizens (Judith ch. 10-13). The episode is illustrated in three scenes. On the left are the sleeping guards, in the centre Judith and her handmaid covering the head of the murdered Holofernes, (presumed to be a portrait of Michelangelo) with a cloth and, lastly, on the right we see the body of the mutilated Holofernes.
The large spandrels placed in the corners of the ceiling narrate four episodes of the miraculous salvation of the people of Israel. These should be interpreted as prefigurations of the Messiah, because they testify as to the constant presence of God in the life of his people and the continuous renewal of the promise of Redemption. They are therefore junction points between the stories of the ceiling and those of the walls.
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