An entirely different view of man dominated the medieval Christian
civilization. Man, according to Augustine, is “crooked and sordid, bespotted
and ulcerous.” Medieval mystics regarded man as an evil creature whose body is
loathsome because it is material, and whose mind is impotent because it is
human. Hating man’s body, they said that pleasure is evil, and virtue consists
of renunciation. Hating this earth, they said that it is a prison where man is
doomed to pain, misery, calamity. Hating life, they said that death and escape
into some other dimension is all that man could—and should—hope for.
Man as a helpless and depraved creature, was the basic theme of medieval
sculpture until the Gothic period, whether he was shown being pushed into Hell
or accepted into Heaven.