Introduction to Saint-Gilles-du-Gard

This important pilgrimage church was on the so-called Via Tolosa, the route that led from Arles to Toulouse (Saint Sernin) with the final destination being Santiago de Compostela. "This road was taken by pilgrims coming from Italy, Switzerland or Central Europe, as well as the "Romieux" who, after Rome, were going to Compostela, or vice versa. They had come after crossing the Alps at Montgenèvre Pass, or by the road along the Ligurian coast" (Roux 77). This route was, however, also known as the Via Aegidiana--an indication of the importance of the shrine to Saint Gilles (Aegidius in Latin).

A major building campaign began in 1116 to build the crypt in the "lower" church. This area with the shrine to Saint Gilles was the important site for pilgrims, although the facade, begun later, is notable for the most spectacular ensemble of sculpture. Carra Ferguson O'Meara claims that the "richness and complexity of its architectural and sculptural composition rivals that of the west portals of the cathedral of Chartres and of the abbey church of Saint-Denis. . ." (2). Unfortunately, much of this decoration was mutilated during the religious wars of the sixteenth century. A number of sculptors (6-8 and their assistants?) no doubt carved the ensemble on the facade, evident in part because their styles vary widely. (See Stoddard for details.) Stoddard dates this project as early as the late 1120s although other scholars have posited dates in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

This church, influenced by the Roman architecture and sculpture in the area as well as early Christian sculpture (some now in the Arles museum), was also influential on other buildings, most notably St. Trophime, the stop before Saint-Gilles on the Via Tolosa.


Index to Images of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard

(145 images; all of the images of the front facade and interior were photographed in 2007)



Views of the three tympana


16 images

Views of the upper frieze with Entry into Jerusalem and other scenes


(images of the frieze are organized left to right)
11 images

Views of the upper frieze with payment of Judas and Christ's cleansing of the Temple and other scenes


(images of the frieze are organized left to right)
11 images

Views of the upper frieze with the Last Supper and the kiss of Judas and other scenes


(images of the frieze are organized left to right)
13 images

Views of the upper frieze with Jesus before Pilate, the Flagellation, the Three Marys at the tomb and other scenes


(images of the frieze are organized left to right)
17 images

Views of the Saints and Angels--left side


(images of the saints and angels are organized left to right)
10 images

Views of the Saints and Angels--splays of Central Portal


(images of the saints and angels are organized left to right)
11 images

Views of the Saints and Angels--right side


(images of the saints and angels are organized left to right)
10 images

Views of the bases and socles


22 images (2 pages)

Images of decorative details


19 images

Views of the interior


5 images

Works Consulted or Quoted:
Alan Borg. Architectural Sculpture in Romanesque Provence. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.
Kenneth John Conant. Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture: 800-1200. New York: Penguin, 1959; 1978.
Carra Ferguson O'Meara. The Iconography of the Facade of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard. New York: Garland, 1977.
Julie Roux [in collaboration with others]. The Roads to Santiago de Compostela. Vic-en-Bigorre Cedex, France: MSM, 1999-2004.
Whitney S. Stoddard. The Facade of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard: Its Influence on French Sculpture. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan UP, 1973.


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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. (I would appreciate being told if you find them useful.) They are not available for commercial purposes without my explicit permission.