© Marlen Wagner

Angels are herold figures that play an important role in all religions. They are “mediators” between God and man. They announce good news, but also God’s imminent punishment. They warn and protect against disaster. People encounter them in dreams and while awake – and in all stages of the in-between.

In religions, angels are presented in different ways: as embodiments, as immaterial beings, as voices, as bearers of scripture, as winged beings and as letters.

In the Christian religion, their pictorial representation is particularly diverse: angelic figures can be found in churches, Christian texts and sculptures, ranging from depictions of austere archangels to playful cherubs.

The Jewish religion, because of its prohibition of images, finds other representations in which messages take shape, e.g. as writing, as letters. Paul Klee decorates the head of his Angelus Novus with scrolls instead of hair. Angels in Judaism are not gestalt beings, they are purely spiritual in origin. So when the Torah describes angels physically, their arms, hands, wings etc., this is not to be understood literally, but always only as a reference to their (spiritual) characteristics.

Angels also play an essential role in Islam – for example, every believer has two angels who watch him and keep a record of his deeds: one for the good, one for the bad. Images are also forbidden in Islam, but visual images of angels are transmitted. For example, the Koran says they are made of light or fire, have wings and can assume human form. Although there are indeed depictions of angels by Islamic artists, none are to be found in Muslim houses of prayer and mosques.

Are angels messengers or the message? And do they pass away when they have delivered their message? Do angels speak – and if so, what does their language sound like? Is what people hear when an angel delivers a message to them really human language?

The stone angels in the cemeteries also speak. They speak through and with their gestures. 

Marlen Wagner