Noli me tangere

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Fra Angelico : Noli me tangere - fresco in a cell of the monastery of San Marco (Florence) around 1440
Hans Holbein the Younger : Noli me tangere - painting detail (1524)

In the Latin translation of the Gospel of John, the phrase noli me tangere is Jesus' utterance to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection ( Jn 20.17  EU ) and translates as “do not touch me or “do not touch me”. In the Greek original, the sentence is mē mou haptou , which would be translated as “don't hold on to me”, since an action that is already taking place is to be prevented.


According to the account of the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene was the first to encounter the risen Christ near the empty tomb, but did not recognize him, but took him for the gardener. Therefore she asks him whether he has carried away the missing body of the crucified one and where he has put it. Only when Jesus calls her by name does she recognize him. Apparently to their attempt to kiss or hug him, Jesus reacts with the proverbial saying and justifies his prohibition with the fact that he has not yet ascended to the Father. He asked Mary Magdalene to inform the disciples . In this way she becomes the first witness and herald of the resurrection of Jesus Christ .


The scene, mentioned only in the Gospel of John, became the subject of a long, widespread and continuous iconographic tradition in Christian art that spanned the High Middle Ages ( Codex Egberti , 980–993) into the 20th century. Mary Magdalene kneels in front of Jesus and tries to kiss his robe or feet. Jesus, often holding the gardener's shovel or the vexillum crucis in one hand, makes a hand gesture towards her . Two variants are predominant in the iconographic tradition: a teaching and proclamation gesture (raised forearm with three outstretched fingers) and a defensive gesture (arm pointing downwards with hand angled upwards, more often with the middle finger placed on the tip of the thumb, little finger and index finger raised and slightly bent).



  • Gertrud Schiller: Iconography of Christian Art. Vol. 3: The Resurrection and Exaltation of Christ , Gütersloh 1986 ISBN 3-579-04137-1 , pp. 95-98; Fig. 275–297 (book illumination, ivory and goldsmith's art, bronze casting, paintings by Giotto, Altdorfer, Barocci, Rembrandt, among others)
  • Engelbert Kirschbaum et al. (Ed.): Lexicon of Christian Iconography. Vol. 3 Herder-Verlag Freiburg / Br. ISBN 3-451-22568-9 , pp. 333-336.
  • G. Becht-Jördens, PM Wehmeier: Picasso and Christian Iconography. Mother relationship and artistic position. Berlin 2003 ISBN 3-496-01272-2 , p. 40 ff .; Fig. 1–4.
  • Jean-Luc Nancy / Christoph Dittrich: Noli me tangere. Lifting and blessing of the body. Diaphanes Verlag, Zurich-Berlin 2008. ISBN 978-3-03734-046-2

See also

Web links

Commons : Noli me tangere  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See G. Schiller, Ikonographie der Christian Kunst, Vol. 3 The Resurrection and Exaltation of Christ, Gütersloh 2 1986 ( ISBN 3-579-04137-1 ) pp. 95–98; Figs. 275–297 (book illumination, ivory and goldsmithing, bronze casting, paintings by Giotto, Altdorfer, Barocci, Rembrandt, among others); Art. Noli me tangere, in: Lexicon of Christian Iconography, Vol. 3 Allgemeine ikonographie LR, Rome Freiburg Basel Vienna ( ISBN 3-451-22568-9 ) Col. 332-336.
  2. Cf. G. Becht-Jördens, PM Wehmeier, Picasso and Christian Iconography. Relationship with the mother and artistic position, Berlin 2003 ( ISBN 3-496-01272-2 ) p. 40 ff .; Fig. 1–4.
  3. Shipley, Joseph Twadell (2001), The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, The Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-0801830044 , p. 400