Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Front facade--the frieze (page 2 of 4 pages on the frieze)

(Note please: these images are arranged on this page as they appear on the facade from left to right.)

The frieze to the left of the central portal

Two main scenes are depicted in this long relief. First the payment of Judas and to the right, Jesus' cleansing of the Temple. A small section at the far right and corner also depicts Martha and Mary Magdalene and the raising of their brother Lazarus.

The payment of Judas

This relief has a greater spatial effect than some of the reliefs, aided by setting the figures in front of architecture--or repeated arches--as well as using the overlapping of figures (seen in many of the reliefs). Stoddard identifies the two figures at the left as "two Jews arguing about the bribe" (95) and comments that the depiction of Judas receiving the bribe is very rare in Romanesque art. The priest Caiaphas is seated on a low throne (it actually looks like a folding chair) and both he and Judas are clothed in long mantles whereas the others are dressed in short outfits.

The Cleansing of the Temple (or Christ driving the money-changers from the Temple)

Four Gospels describe this event when Jesus, provoked by the sight of the Temple being turned into a market, made a whip of cords and drove the merchants from the Temple. His raised right hand would have held this whip.

A dramatic scene

Jesus is depicted dramatically, in an extreme pose (not very possible), with his knees breaking through the drapery--all to accentuate his boldness. The skillful carving not only delineates folds in action encasing a volumetric body, but drill work decorates his halo as well as his collar.

Merchants, doves, oxen and sheep

The poor would have bought doves for sacrificial animals while the rich would have bought the larger animals.

Raising of Lazarus

This is a damaged scene (not all of which is photographed here). Mary and Martha are apparently at the far end (right) after the fleeing animals and then in the corner Lazarus is actually raised with his shroud bindings being unwound. The adjoining scene (the prediction of Peter's denial)is discussed on the next page.

Go to page 3 of the frieze.

Works consulted or quoted:

Go to Saint-Gilles Index.

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© 2007 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.