The Redeemer’s Almond (Dennis Aubrey)


To honor Easter Sunday, we’ll post a selection of shots of Christ in Majesty from various Romanesque portals in France.

The first is the exquisite centerpiece of the north portal tympanum at Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire. Sophisticated and elegant, the sculpture still has traces of the original polychrome paint.

North portal tympanum, Basilique Saint Benoît, Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire (Loiret) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

North portal tympanum, Basilique Saint Benoît, Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire (Loiret) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The following image from the western portal tympanum of the basilica at Conques is, for me, the sine qua non of Romanesque majesties. The elongated and stylized arms and the sloping ground below the throne are sublime details. Again, we can see traces of the polychrome paint.

Christ in Majesty, Basilique Sainte Foy, Conques (Aveyron)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Christ in Majesty, Basilique Sainte Foy, Conques (Aveyron) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The classically-inspired tympanum at the Cathédrale Saint Trophime in Arles is another masterpiece of the sculptor’s art. The realism and the details – of the drapery folds and exquisite borders, for example – show that this was the work of an artist of the highest capability.

West portal tympanum, Cathédrale Saint-Trophime, Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

West portal tympanum, Cathédrale Saint-Trophime, Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The Ascension figure of the north portal of Cahors is the classic vesica piscis form of the mandorla. This shape is created when two circles of the same radius intersect at the midpoints of each other.

Vesica piscis mandorla

Vesica piscis mandorla

“Mandorla” means “almond” in Italian, and its application here is clear. The use of the mandorla is used to signify an aureola of light surrounding a holy person.

North portal tympanum, Cathédrale Saint Etienne, Cahors (Lot)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

North portal tympanum, Cathédrale Saint Etienne, Cahors (Lot) Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

This Christ in Mandorla was also featured in the tympanum of the tiny church of Lassouts in the Aveyron. We happened to be driving in this remote area and saw the church on a corner. We had to get out and photograph the tympanum.

Église de Lassouts, Lassouts (Aveyron)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Église de Lassouts, Lassouts (Aveyron) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

There are literally hundreds of these representations on tympanae throughout France and Spain, and they signify the greatest mystery of medieval Christianity. It is appropriate that we feature them on this day of the Risen Christ. Our next post will feature the same subject in Romanesque wall painting, particularly in oven vaults.

6 responses to “The Redeemer’s Almond (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. Dear Dennis,

    what a sublime gift for Easter. The beauty and the power of the images leave me in awe. Thank for so generously sharing them.

    Birgit Urmson

  2. Wow, these are so beautiful. I never realised that Jesus never wore shoes (apparently), though John the Baptist said he was unworthy to tie His sandals. The drapery on the Christ on the Cathédrale Saint-Trophime has a surprising number of folds – must have been the finest silk and plenty of it. More likely, it was artistic licence. But how beautiful!

    • Trish, the detail of these sculptures is astonishing. Imagine the work expended on those draperies at Saint-Trophime alone! And this is just one small element on a fully sculpted west facade!

  3. Pingback: Marianne’s Photo Challenge: Multicoloured | Sounds like wish

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