Ste. Foy--page 4 (of ten pages): tympanum: views of the heaven

The bottom register

At the center of the bottom row there are two doors, one to the left (Christ's right) to Heaven and one to Hell. (See far right image below for the door to Heaven.) Flanking this center scene are views of Heaven and Hell, each with a presiding figure--Abraham in Heaven and Lucifer in Hell. (See next page for Lucifer.) Abraham, depicted in the center, seems to be embracing two of the Elect, each carrying scepters with flowers. On Abraham's left are figures representing the Old Law--two prophets with scrolls and at the outer arch, female prophets, while on his right are New Testament figures. Adjacent to him on his right are two figures with haloes carrying a chalice. The inscription below refers to transubstantiation. The two women under the next arch to the left carry ointment jars while those figures at the end (probably Apostles) hold together an open book. The gable above this group in the heavenly Jerusalem indicates those who abide here: "the chaste, the peaceable, the gentle, the friends of piety" (Harmel 10).

Sainte Foy above the gable

Here the saint bows in front of the hand of God which is surrounded by a halo inscribed with a cross. Under this scene the inscription reads "Friends of Piety." Above, the inscription reads "AD CELI GAUDIA"--joy in Heaven.

The middle register on the left (Christ's right)--the Chosen ones

The figures following the Virgin Mary and St. Peter lack haloes and some are representations of actual persons who played a role in the history of the monastery at Conques: after Peter, the hermit Dadon, the founder, then an abbot with a crozier, Bégon, and then King Charlemagne, the legendary benefactor of the monastery. He is followed by two monks carrying gifts for the Treasury of the abbey.

The middle register on the left (Christ's right)--the Chosen ones, led by the Virgin Mary

Mary is followed by St. Peter who holds the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. The angels above the Elect hold phylacteries at angles with virtues inscribed on them. Still legible are VMILITA (humility) and, skipping the worn away virtue (which would have been constancy), and CARITAS.

The angels in the middle register on Christ's left

The two turned inward toward Christ carry (top) a book of life, inscribed SIGNATUR--"it is finished" and below, a thurible. Facing toward the hellish scenes, the two angels demarcate the boundary of Hell and prohibit entry. One bears a sword and shield and the other a flag of victory.

Continue to tympanum--views of Hell.

Works consulted or quoted:
Jean-Régis Harmel. The Tympanum of Conques in Detail. [official guidebook] 1998.
Marilyn Stokstad. Medieval Art. New York: Harper and Row, 1986; 2004.

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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.