Harrowing of Hell

views updated May 21 2018

Harrowing of Hell. Medieval Christian term for the belief that on Holy Saturday, Jesus descended into hell and defeated the powers of the devil. In consequence, he was able to set free the souls of those who had been faithful to God (and conscience) before the incarnation and its associated atonement.

Harrowing of Hell

views updated Jun 11 2018

Harrowing of Hell in medieval Christian theology, the defeat of the powers of evil and the release of its victims by the descent of Christ into hell after his death. It is a subject of mystery plays and of Orthodox icons; in medieval religious art Christ is shown treading down the gates of hell to release the souls of the faithful who have died before his Coming.

Harrowing here comes from harrow, a by-form of the verb to harry.