The Templars were hot on the concept of Anti-Christ – as were plenty of other people in the Middle Ages. Trouble was – it was as clear as fog exactly what Anti-Christ was supposed to be. Read any books on the subject and you really won’t be that much clearer. The gist is that Anti-Christ is a figure who comes to deceive mankind and in whom Satan has some kind of controlling influence – or even dwells actively within.
Anti-Christ will come at the end of days pretending to be the saviour but being the complete opposite. Early candidates for Anti-Christ included the Emperor Nero until the world just carried on without him and didn’t end. Arius – architect of the Arian heresy – was decried as Anti-Christ but after dying in a Roman latrine, that kind of petered out. As the Roman Empire lurched in to crisis, many Christians believed the coming of Anti-Christ was imminent but after Rome fell, life continued – albeit with a lot of Barbarians around the place.
So in to the Middle Ages, stories of Anti-Christ continued. It was said he would seize power over the Earth from Jerusalem but that Elijah and Enoch would bear witness to his falseness and the coming of the true Lord but they would be slain by Anti-Christ. The evil one would then go beserk killing every righteous person he could get his satanic hands on until the Lord overthrew him and raised the two witnesses from the dead.
It became rather convenient for Popes to identify some of their enemies as Anti-Christ – false preachers sent by Satan. Unfortunately, that could also backfire with popes being accused of being Anti-Christ and having risen themselves up to laud it over mankind. When there were rival popes and anti-popes, this accusation became all the more prevalent.
But how would you know the evil one? The problem with the bible is a lack of clarity on who exactly Anti-Christ is – there are several candidates – and what he/it would appear like. So medieval artists gave it their best shot using all manner of sources to guess the appearance of Anti-Christ.
You might recognise him because he would be riding both Leviathan and Behemoth. Well, riding the two giants of land and sea would be quite an entrance.
He normally looks human – sometimes resembling Jesus who he is trying to imitate. In other accounts, he is a bit easier to recognise. One story says he is twelve cubits high, two cubits wide, red crooked eyes, golden hair, green feet and two skulls. Well, you wouldn’t miss that Anti-Christ in a hurry.
More revoltingly, Hildegard von Bingen in the twelfth century had a vision of Anti-Christ being born – from the church which was kind of represented as a woman. I’ll spare some of the details here but out pops a black head with fiery eyes, donkey’s ears, a mouth like a lion, iron teeth, etc. The creature is a like a hairy black parallelogram with teeth. Anti-Christ will stink apparently. It will then attempt to ascend in to heaven in a parody of Christ’s ascent and be cast down so violently its head will break open.
I’ll have some more random musings on Anti-Christ in the next few days.