( Visoki Decani Monastery, Kosovo)
These are the images that started it all:
«Frescos throughout Europe … reveal the appearance of space ships in the skies including this painting of ‘The Crucifixion’ – painted in 1350. It seems to depict a small human looking man looking over his shoulder – at another UFO as if in pursuit – as he flies across the sky in what is clearly a space ship. »
In 1964, the above images were “discovered” by art student Alexandar Paunovitch in a 16th-century fresco of the crucifixion of Christ, located on the wall of the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo, Yugoslavia. The French magazine “Spoutnik” printed them, and they have been featured in many books and web pages ever since as “spaceships with a crew.”
While a layperson might be completely mystified by these suggestive images, a Medieval art historian would only need to know that they were located in the upper corners of a depiction of Christ’s crucifixion …
But this Crucifixion also follows the common iconographic model of the Middle Ages. The “Deposition from the Cross” of Benedetto Antelami, in the Dome of Parma in particular resembles the Crucifixion of Visoki Decani:
Many crucifixion paintings and mosaics done in the Byzantine style show the same odd “objects” on either side of the cross. They are the Sun and the Moon, often represented with a human face or figure, turned to witness the Crucifixion, a common iconographic tradition in the art of the Middle Ages.
«The sun and moon, one on each side of the cross, are a regular feature of Medieval crucifixion [paintings].
«They survived into the early Renaissance but are seldom seen after the 15th century. Their origin is very ancient. It was the custom to represent the Sun and Moon in images of the pagan sun gods of Persia and Greece, a practice that was carried over into Roman times on coins depicting the emperors.
« … [T]he sun is [sometimes represented as] simply a man’s bust with a radiant halo, the moon [as] a woman’s, with the crescent of Diana. Later they are reduced to two plain disks. The moon having a crescent within the circle, may be borne by angels. The sun appears on Christ’s right, the moon on his left.”»
The Sun and Moon are depicted as anything from a flat disk to a hollow comet-tailed ball. The figures within vary from a simple face to elaborate depictions of Apollo and Diana in their chariots driving horses or oxen. The Sun and Moon are also featured on crucifixions painted by Dürer, Crivelli, Raphael, and Bramantino.
The Sun and Moon, represented as human figures, are visible in many Byzantine-Orthodox sacred paintings.
Two ivories from the Museé de Cluny, Paris, the Sun and the Moon are on sides of the cross:
Often, the Sun and the Moon were represented as human characters driving wagons drawn by horses and by oxen:
A sculpture by Benedetto Antelami in the Dome of Parma, with the story of Barlaam and Josafat, where the Sun and the Moon appear to be “doubled” in the figures of the fighting Day and Night:
In the same Decani Monastery, in a lower level vault, there are other depictions of the “humanized” Sun and Moon:
Conclusion: In the Visoki Decani Crucifixion fresco there are no UFOs. The two objects near the cross are anthropomorphic symbols of the Sun and the Moon, represented in much the same way as they are in many other Byzantine Crucifixions.
* The information contained herein is based primarily on the work of Diego Cuoghi and the sources listed below:
1. The UFO Times
2. Diego Cuoghi, Italian art historian, Skeptic magazine, 2004 (1.7MB, PDF File)
3. Diego Cuoghi
4. James Hall, author of the Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols In Art