Massacre of the Innocents

Giovanni Pisano, Slaughter of the Innocents, Marble, 1301, Pulpit, Sant' Andrea Church, Pistoia, Italy.

The scene is dense and dramatic as Herod the Great directs the Slaughter of the Innocents. Herod is shown at the top right listening to the Magi who are looking for the baby foretold to be king of the Jews. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod orders all male babies in Bethlehem to be killed to prevent the prophecy.

Giovanni Pisano was probably not the one who chose the subject matter for the pulpit reliefs of the Sant' Andrea Church but in the execution of this commission he was at the forefront of the transition from  Gothic styles to Proto-Renaissance styles by using dramatic gesture and facial expression to bring realism and humanity to biblical scenes.

In the Church of Sant’ Andrea the pulpit was originally located on the right (south) side of the church in front of the choir screen so that the reader or priest faces the main nave. Pulpits of this time were imposing interior structures typically towering ten to fifteen feet above the congregation.


A group of people attending religious services, worshiping.

A gospel is an account that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

An inspired message related by a prophet; also, the process whereby a prophet relates inspired messages to others.

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