Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Front facade--bases and socles (page 1 of two pages)

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



Relief sculpture on the lower level of the facade occurs on the pedestals of the main portal as well as under the columns of the main and side portals, which also have sculpture in the round. Scholars debate the dating of this sculptural work as well noting that it must predate the upper parts of the facade since it would have been put in place prior to the construction of the upper parts.

Left: Left socle of the left portal (south face); center: right socle of the left portal (north face); right: right socle of the left portal

The badly eroded socle on the left depicts a human figure thrust to the ground by a lion--his garment flair s at the top of the sculpture. The center image depicts a goat with some attempt at representing its coat. Paired lion bases actually support two of the socles on the left portal and conceivably once supported the columns across the facade. These lions have their heads turned back, are carved in the round, and have textural qualities, especially in the manes.
 

Bases of the central portal, left side: Offerings of Cain and Abel and the narrow end with Cain's murder of Abel

The relief of Cain and Abel presenting offerings is oddly set under arches. Cain on the right holds up a sheaf of grain while Abel lifts up a sheep, which is accepted by God (his hand reaches down). Both Cain and Abel are depicted in robes with very full skirts and lovely folds, those of Abel echoing the "s"-shaped folds of Thomas' gown on the facade. The murder of Abel is more difficult to discern. Here is Stoddard's description: "Cain, on the left, with devil's mask behind his head, is pulling Abel's head by the hair and cutting his throat. Abel's soul is issuing from his mouth and being crowned and pulled upward by two angels which, with their wings under curving clouds, fill the upper part of the panel" (49).
 

Double socle the central portal, left side (north face): bound apes and a camel

 

Socle of the central portal, left side: lions

Like the right side of the central portal, here also the apostle figures haec lions attacking human figures or other animals. Although these have been mutilated the folds of the man under the statue of Peter are still evident as are the incised treatments of the lions' manes. See below.
 

Right: Double socle of the central portal, left side (south face)



Continue to page 2 for additional bases and socles on the right side of the church.


Works consulted or quoted: 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.