The Eucharist capital in Civaux – Amuse Bouche #15 (Dennis Aubrey)


The 12th century capitals in the Église Saint Gervais et Saint Protais in the Poitevin town of Civaux are strikingly similar to those at nearby Chauvigny, which are known to have been created by the famed “Gofridus”. It was this sculptor who signed one of the capitals at the Collégiale Saint Pierre with the words Gofridus me fecit. For a number of reasons I am convinced that the same artist created the capitals in both churches, but that is the subject of another post. This is a simple appreciation of one specific capital in Civaux, the “Eucharist” capital.

Capital, the Eucharist, Église Saint Gervais et Saint Protais, Civaux (Vienne)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Capital, the Eucharist, Église Saint Gervais et Saint Protais, Civaux (Vienne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The Eucharist capital is so-called because the birds represent the intractable conflict between opposing principles – the material and spiritual. the physical and the mental, knowledge and ignorance, light and dark. The differences are, however, reconciled by drinking from the same cup, the symbol of everlasting life. This act of communion brings balance and harmony into the world. This is a sophisticated message for a simple piece of sculpture and demonstrates how much we might learn from these “dark ages” a thousand years ago.

This is part of a series of posts featuring an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized appetizer to whet the appetite of diners. Each of these will explore a single interesting feature of medieval architecture or sculpture. To see other amuse-bouches, follow this link.

5 responses to “The Eucharist capital in Civaux – Amuse Bouche #15 (Dennis Aubrey)

    • Mike, in my mind there is no question that there was a real renaissance in the 12th and 13th centuries, more profound that than of the Italian Renaissance, which was fundamentally a reworking of the Roman model that surrounded the artists in Italy at the time. It is true that it was very liberating, but the real discoveries architecturally were made earlier, and the great Florentine and Roman domes of the Renaissance could not be built without chains to hold them together. A look at the Hagia Sofia will show what had been lost over the years.

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