ladder of the virtues and vices or the ascent of the soul to the
next world. Sucevitsa, Rumania.
treatise by John Climax (579--649) shows how one can reach religious perfection
and plenitude of faith, hope and charity (...). The austere treatise of
the sinaite monk and its abstractions have been illustrated as early as
the XIth century on miniatures depicting the Virtues fighting against
the Vices over monks climbing the degrees of perfection (...). When one
passes from illuminate manuscripts to wall paintings angels and demons
increase in size (...). And since their world is the next world, they
finally suggest that the scene depicted takes place in this next world.
The rungs of the ladder of virtues and vices then would represent the
stages of the soul on its way to the next world. Conceived as an allegory
of the life here below and its struggles, the ladder and its rungs would
figure the ordeals that the soul must stand in the next world. If it is
strong and supported by the angels, it will reach the gates of heaven
where a hand is stretched out to welcome it. If it is weak and attracted
by the demons, it will be precipitated into the depths of hell. Nowhere
better than in Susevitsa does the army of angels and its well-ordered
divisions (...) give a more imposing representation of the journey that
leads the soul to its last resting place in the next world.