As long as I've been repeating some of my old Tarot de Marseille interpretation, I thought I'd expand on the Pope, Devil, and Tower in the context of the prophetic tradition.
Concerning the Pope = Antichrist(Devil) idea, one peculiarity of Tarot de Marseille is the iconographic pairing of the Pope and the Devil. They both have a large central figure, crowned, making a “blessing” gesture with the right hand and holding a “scepter” in the left. No such pairing occurs in any other deck. Each central figure has two subordinate figures in the foreground, and there are also two figures falling from the Tower. The two subordinates are unusual on other Pope or Tower cards, they appear on no other Devil cards. This composition, a dominant central figure with two subbordinates, appears on no other cards in the Tarot de Marseille trumps. Such an iconographic pairing of Pope with Devil would be obviously meaningful given the beliefs of the time. For several centuries the populace had been awaiting the End Times, and legend held that the Antichrist would be Pope. This is a quote I've posted before from Norman Cohn's excellent The Pursuit of the Millennium (1961).marco wrote:I attach three images that I found in the catalogue of the exhibition “Le muse e il principe” (Ferrara 1991). They are illustrations from a Ferrarese manuscript dating to 1450 ca. The manuscript contains two prophetic texts: “Liber de causis, statu, cognitione ac fine instantis scismatis et tribulationum futurarum” by Telesforo da Cosenza, and the much more famous “Vaticinia Ponificum” by Giocchino da Fiore....
In the image that I attach there is a good pope (on the left) and a bad pope on the right (the last Antichrist).
The Devil is thus shown as a perverted version of the Pope, and the small figures, tonsured clergy in the Pope card, become corrupt demons in the Devil card. (And in the Tower card the crown is blown off the tower while fire falls on the falling subordinates.) This identification of the Pope and Antichrist was current for centuries before Tarot was invented, and remained a mainstream Christian legend for centuries after. Protestant propagandists made a great deal out of that legend, and it is, in fact, still prevalent today. The point here, however, is that revising the iconography of both Pope and Devil cards to make them iconographic twins adds a fragmentary layer of meaning, clearly intended meaning, to the series. This is then developed in the House of God card.Martin Luther was not (as is often supposed) the first to hit upon the idea that the Antichrist who sets up his throne in the Temple can be no other than the Pope at Rome and that the Church of Roms is therefore the Church of Satan. Amongst the eschatologically minded in the later Middle Ages the idea was already a commonplace. Even such a champion of the Church as St. Bernard could come to believe, in his tense expectatio of the final drama, that many of the clergy belonged to the hosts of Antichrist. And in the pronouncements of the propheta who was burnt as a heretic at Paris in 1209 similar ideas appear as an integral part of a doctrine which clearly drew heavily upon the Johannine and Sibylline traditions, Thios man, a cleric turned goldsmith, foretold that within five years the people would be consumed by famine, the kings would slay one another with the sword, the earth would open and swallow up the twon-dwellers and finally fire would fall upon those members of Antichrist, the prelates of the Church. For, he insisted, the Pope was Antiochrist, on account of the power he held; and the Babylon of the Apocalypse was really Rome.... Any Millenarian movement was in fact almost compelled by the situation in which it found itself to see the clergy as a demonic fraternity.
Just as the Pope/Devil pairing only occurs in the Tarot de Marseille deck, that is also the only deck in which the Fire/Tower card is called the House of God, la Maison Dieu. Many interpretations have been offered for this, most of them explaining it away rather than explaining it. The name has been widely considered to be uninformative or even misleading, perhaps a mistake of translation from Casa del Diav[olo]. The question is, why would fire from heaven be striking the House of God?
In the Millennialist context, the destruction of the House of God, i.e., the Church, coming as it does after the rise the Antichrist to the papacy as shown in the Devil card, makes perfect sense. The ascension of the Antichrist to the head of the Church would mark its ultimate corruption, at which point the Millennialist mythology said it would be destroyed. Returning to the interpretation from Revelation 20, which I consider the foundation for this part of the trump cycle, immediately after the passage about Satan’s post-millennial release and his subsequent deception of the nations, “fire came down from heaven and destroyed them”. Various explanations for the use of a tower have been suggested, but the pairing of Pope and Devil, combined with the name House of God, provides another: Turris Ecclesia, the Tower of the Church.
The Tarot de Marseille Tower might well represent the Turris Ecclesia of St. Hildegard of Bingen. Both “Tower” and “House of God” are perfectly correct names -- Turris Ecclesia is both a tower and the House of God, i.e., the Church. Significant elements of Hildegard’s description also fit the common Tarot de Marseille image: Turris Ecclesia is a round tower, white, with three windows. Although the stenciled colors vary from one Tarot de Marseille deck to another, these elements fit the Tarot de Marseille card rather well. Then there are the details of what is happening in the Tarot de Marseille image. The tower itself stands intact, unscathed, while the “crown” is blown off, and two figures are thrown down. The white tower itself represents the true Church, made up of the faithful. (Cf. II Co 3:9-17.) The crown represents the head of the Church, i.e., the Antichrist who has become pope. Architecturally, the crenellated top of a tower is called the crown, for obvious reasons. Via metonymy, the crown represents the head of the Church, i.e., the pope. The falling figures represent the corrupt clergy, who are shown on the previous card (and on the Pope card). The corrupt Church is destroyed, while the cleansed Church of the faithful, the tower itself, remains unscathed. This is yet another difference between the Tarot de Marseille Tower and other Tarot Tower cards in which the tower itself is broken.
There is a fundamental distinction between the Church as the corporation of the faithful, the Bride of Christ, Heavenly Jerusalem, etc., and the worldly Church, which is the corporation of the corrupt, and which is to be destroyed. This distinction is made clear in the card, when understood via Hildegard’s vision. Hildegard writes, “Now the reason why you see a huge round tower entirely built of white stone is because the sweetness of the Holy Spirit is immense and comprehensively includes all creatures in its grace, so that no corruption in the integrity of the fullness of justice destroys it; since glowing, it points the way and sends forth all rivers of sanctity in the clarity of its strength, in which there is found no spot of any foulness. Wherefore the Holy Spirit is ablaze, and its burning serenity which strongly kindles the fiery virtues will never be destroyed; so all darkness is put to flight by it.” In other words, the Church is cleansed by the Holy Spirit and still stands intact -- as in the Tarot image.
St. Paul says that the Antichrist “sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (II Th 2:4.) While the popes didn’t claim to be God, they did claim to be the only route to God, and the Church was the only means of salvation. “And then the lawless one [Antichrist] will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” (II Th 2:8.) One of the iconographic oddities of Tarot de Marseille is that the Tower is struck by something looking like half fire, half wind (breath). Other oddities of the Tarot de Marseille image, in comparison with other cards illustrated above. The giant hailstones shown on the card are a conventional Apocalyptic motif. The key meaning of the card in the context of the Devil/Antichrist card is the cleansing of the House of God. And that’s what it shows.
As a meditative exercise for the day, consider the phrase, "by the splendor[brightness] of his coming", inlustratione adventus sui, in the context of the trump cycle, specifically, this triptych. Here's a visual to help with the meditation, with seven stars surrounding one brighter, 8-pointed star representing the Advent of Christ.
If anyone is interested, here is a 2001 series of TarotL posts where I tried to put all the pieces together.
Tarot de Marseille and Heterodoxy -- 1 of 4
Tarot de Marseille and Heterodoxy -- 2 of 4
Tarot de Marseille and Heterodoxy -- 3 of 4
Tarot de Marseille and Heterodoxy -- 4 of 4