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UFO's in Ancient Art

(go to 1:36:08 in the video).

(see footnotes below) 

Ancient Aliens: “All throughout the middle ages there are some magnificent paintings and, in certain areas of the painting, there are what looks to be UFOs. They are always floating above in the sky – usually above the Virgin Mary or above Jesus on the crucifix. [In some places] we have sceneries that depict what looks like UFOs.”

Almost all supposed UFO-in-art cases come from medieval art, and there is a pretty good reason for that.

Most people are not aware of the symbolism rules of Byzantine or medieval art and so they are easy prey for Ancient Astronaut theories about it.

This theory concerning Byzantine art could never work on someone who studies this type of art professionally. Let me show you why.

First, let’s take one that Ancient Aliens showed in the background a few times in the last clip. It’s a very famous UFO-in-art painting, and it’s usually presented using a very poor quality image so you can’t see the details very well.

If you look closely you can see that these objects have distinct faces. They are actually representing the sun and the moon, and you would think that someone being honest about this would fill you in that they appear in almost every painting of a crucifixion done in the Byzantine style.[1]

The sun and the moon were consistently depicted with human characteristics, sometimes they had just faces; other times they had full bodies.[2]

The concept of representing the sun and the moon with human characteristics was a carry-over from the pagan artwork of Rome. The Roman Catholic Church simply continued that tradition of symbolizing the sun and the moon with human characteristics in the artwork that it had commissioned.[3]

The sun and the moon are usually facing the cross, which is supposed to represent them being witnesses to the crucifixion.[4]

The sheer number of Byzantine crucifixion scenes where these objects are depicted in such a way that is obviously supposed to be the sun and the moon, should be enough to put this one to rest for good.

Ancient Aliens goes on for a while about the 14th century fresco at the Viscoski Decani monastery in Kosovo. It has been a big favorite of Ancient Astronaut theorists since it first appeared in a French magazine called Sputnik in the 1960’s[5]

This crucifixion scene is just like the others we have seen except it has a more full body representation of the sun and the moon. There are just as many examples of the sun and the moon being depicted in this way – with full bodies – in other Byzantine crucifixion scenes including in other places in this same monastery.[6]

Ancient Aliens also shows this famous painting – well, famous to ancient astronaut theorists anyway. This one is like the others in that once you know what you’re looking at you will see so many other examples of it in medieval art.

This one is called “Madonna with Child with the Infant St. John” and to start out I want to draw your attention just below and to the right of the object, where you will see a character holding his hand to his eyes and looking toward the sky; with him is a dog that is also looking toward the sky.

The painting was supposed to be depicting this passage in the bible:

«…and there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, an angel of the Lord come upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear ye not: for behold!, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you was born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord…»

So the shepherds and the glory of the Lord shining round about them are all in the context of the announcement of Jesus’ birth from the gospel of Luke.

What really demystifies this is to show other paintings from the era depicting the same scene. Slowly you will see what the so called UFO is supposed to be.[7]

First you will notice that all of these paintings have the same shepherd, usually with a dog, and usually with their hands to their eyes.

Usually an angel comes out of the cloud lined with light. In older pictures the cloud in this scene would have golden rays.

Sometimes an angel is coming out of a big tear in the sky. Other times, like this one of a similar style, only a tear in the sky is visible, not the angel.[8]

In an almost identical Tondo we see the shepherd looking toward a red-dressed angel, and in the center, above the Madonna’s head there is the same light rayed cloud.

Here is the same scene painted by the artist’s brother in law, with a bright star appearing inside a cloud. On a hill to the right, the angel appears to the shepherds.

Here is another shepherd scene. We see the angel and the luminous cloud. Sometimes the angels would be depicted in the cloud like this.

So the “Madonna with Child with the Infant St. John” can safely be identified with the announcement scene in the gospel of Luke, and all the elements in the painting are well known by students of medieval art.

AA: “The most famous painting that dissolved any doubt in my mind depicted a UFO, with its lazer beam, was made by Crivelli in 1486 – the annunciation to Mary.”

AA: “In Medi-evil art in the annunciation when Mary is told that she will have a child but she will still be a virgin, and the angels tell them this, over Mary’s head is a space capsule. What is a space capsule doing over the head of Mary?”

This isn’t a space capsule. If you look closely you will see that it is formed by a circle of clouds inside of which there are two circles of small angels.

This is a very common way of representing God and is visible in a huge number of paintings. Gustave Dore in the middle of the 1800’s even resumed this pattern of the circles of angels in his illustration titled Dante’s Paradise.[9]

The so called “laser beam” is present in a lot of paintings of this scene[10] and is used to show the impregnation of Mary by the Holy Spirit, often represented by a dove, which is present in this painting as well if you look closely.

But this laser beam loses its value for Ancient Astronaut theorists the more one sees of other paintings of this Biblical scene, because it becomes obvious that they weren’t trying to depict a space capsule at all, but rather the circle of angel’s motif.

The last one Ancient Aliens mentions is this one:

AA: “One very interesting painting is where Jesus sits up in the clouds with, quote unquote, God and they’re holding onto the antenna of what looks like sputnik and theologians say that what is depicted here is nothing else but the Earth. Why would Earth have two antenna sticking out of it and why would it be round, because the mainstream viewpoint at the time was that the Earth was flat?”

This is similar to all the others we have looked at in that there are lots of other pictures of this Biblical scene that help to give us context.[11]

This scene usually contains the father the Son and the Holy Spirit – usually symbolized as a dove. They are holding what is sometimes called the “Creation Globe.”[12]

The idea that they are trying to convey is the Biblical concept that the creation of the world is attributed to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Bible.

This “Creation Globe” becomes a very common symbol in medieval art[13], and the only reason Ancient Aliens says that it can’t represent a globe is that according to them, people at that time in history thought the earth was flat.

Although this idea about people in the Middle Ages believing the earth was flat is widely believed nowadays, it’s little better than an urban legend.[14]

If you type in the “myth of the flat earth” into a search engine you’ll see that the truth is that almost every scientist since the ancient Greeks knew the earth was spherical. Here are a few quotes about this:

Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell says the flat earth error flourished most between 1870 and 1920 he said “with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat,”

The myth that people in the Middle Ages thought the earth is flat appears to date from the 17th century as part of the campaign by Protestants against Catholic teaching. But it gained currency in the 19th century, thanks to inaccurate histories such as John William Draper’s History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Atheists and agnostics championed the conflict thesis for their own purposes, but historical research gradually demonstrated that Draper and White had propagated more fantasy than fact in their efforts to prove that science and religion are locked in eternal conflict.

One funny thing about this is that Tsoukalous in another episode, in order to suit his purposes there, admits the idea of a round earth was even in the Bible.

AA: “Moses actually describes Earth seen from outer space.”

AA: “The quote is: ‘there upon I saw the whole round of the Earth, at once the depth of the Earth and the vast altitudes of the heavens’. I mean here he describes the Earth as being round.”

So there is no problem whatsoever with the medieval artists knowing that the Earth was round, and therefore there is no reason to say that these symbols aren’t representing exactly what the artists have always said that they represent.

Almost all the UFO-in-Art theories come from the middle ages and they all fail when they are compared with other paintings of the same scene because one can then see that these were consistent motifs in that style of art and were used to describe certain theological concepts which, when explained in light of the concept that its obviously trying to convey, totally demystifies the objects in question.

[1] Diego Cuoghi. “ART and UFOs? No Thanks, Only Art…” ART and UFOs? No Thanks, Only Art…, n.d.



[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.


[8] Ibid.


[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.


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