In medieval Christian mythology, the prodigious tyrant of the final days, the arch-enemy of Christ. It was a notion that combined Persian dualism with Judeo-Christian apocalypse. Antichrist first appeared in Revelation as the pseudo-messiah ‘who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is known as God, or that is worshipped…. And it was given unto him to make warfare with the saints, and to beat them: and power was given to him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.’ Within the Middle Ages, however, he was portrayed not solely as a world tyrant but also as an airborne beast with a huge head, flaming eyes, ass's ears, and iron teeth.

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The coming of Antichrist was tensely awaited. In 1096 Pope City said that, for the reason that tyrant's arrival was imminent and the Holy Land could be the centre of his energy, it was essential that Christians expel the Muslems from Jerusalem. Thus he launched the First Crusade. When the specter of invasion by Saracens, Tartars, or Turks didn't fuel the myth, Europe tended to seek out his supporters within itself. Satan grew to become ‘the father of the Jews’, and bloody persecution ensued. But it most individuals believed that Antichrist was to be a Jew, there were many who believed that he could be the son of a bishop or a nun. Anticlericalism and Antichrist turned strangely entwined. As Pope Boniface VIII wrote in 1296: ‘Antiquity relates that laymen present a spirit of hostility in the direction of the clergy, and it's clearly proved by the expertise of the present time.’ In the course of the Reformation it comes as no surprise to find that Protestants regarded the Pope as Antichrist whereas Catholics returned the praise with regard to Luther.

A picture of what looks like Christ being tempted by the Devil. It is from the Deeds of the Antichrist fresco by Luca Signorelli, c. 1501

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