Monday, September 5, 2016

The Fabulous Imagery of the Anima Sola


Rarely does a phrase result in so much evocative imagery as the term Anima Sola. Well known to those of a Roman Catholic bent, the Anima Sola refers to the lonely soul who suffers in Purgatory as the sins of mortal existence are expunged so that they can ascend to heaven. Those of us who did not grow up in a Roman Catholic home or neighborhood are perhaps not so aware of the significance of the term and its associated imagery even though we have probably seen some of the images without knowing what we were looking at.

In reviewing the Anima Sola and related concepts as part of research in belief systems about hell and punishment for sin, a topic of great personal interest to me, I came across a number of wonderful variations on this theme, and wanted to decorate my blog with them.

As always with images taken from the Internet, provenance and ownership are fluid. I have listed below what I believe are the sources for the images exhibited here. And there are many more fabulous interpretations of this concept available at those links.

A reader of this blog, esteemed pioneer of computer animation, Julian Gomez, has asked why these portraits all seem to represent women.  I have wondered this myself, and I will have to do more research. You can see our dialogue in the comments section.

I suspect that a more thorough understanding of the ideas behind the images will be necessary to really understand what is going on here.

This is one of my favorites.  Notice the hacksaw to cut through the chains.  No passive suffering here!


  1. Replies
    1. Dear Julian, I think this is an excellent question, and I wondered about it myself. I will do more research and report back when I can. But obviously my first uninformed guess is that it has to do with the subtext of this imagery and the purpose of Purgatory, and the fear and hope that Purgatory represents, itself. It may just have to do with the sexism of the Internet representations of women. For what little it is worth, I note the use of the feminine gender in the words themselves "anima sola" (e.g. vs "animo solo" or something of that nature).

  2. Thanks for sharing this blog its very informative and useful for us.