Cathedral of Saint-Étienne, West Facade Central Portal
Cioffi, Paul L., 1928-2004
The Bourges cathedral, along with that of Chartres, is considered one of the first of the 'high gothic' cathedrals because of its great height, its glass-to-stone ratio and the unified, flowing design of its interior space. The present cathedral was built in two major campaigns, the first from 1195-1214 and the second beginning in 1225 and proceeding until around 1255. The west facade, with its five portals, corresponding to the five divisions of nave and double side aisles inside, was constructed during the second campaign; its decoration dates from the second half of the 13th C. The central portal (detailed in this image), known as the royal portal, is larger that the other four and its iconographic themes reflect its importance. On the trumeau between the doors is the figure of Christ, the Teacher, holding an ornamented book (the Scriptures) and standing on a lion and a dragon. Most of the figures that decorated the jambs flanking the figure of Christ were destroyed by Huguenots in the Wars of Religion (1562-1598). The tympanum above the figure of Christ represents the Last Judgment and is divided into three registers. The bottom register depicts the Resurrection of the Dead with nude figures crawling from their graves. In the center of the middle register stands a majestic St. Michael using an enormous set of scales (wrought of forged iron) to weigh souls. To the archangel's left, a grotesque demon waits to snatch the souls found wanting and march them naked to the fiery cauldron at the mouth of Hell. To St. Michael's right St. Peter leads a procession of the elect, fully clothed in the garb of their earthly vocations, to the bosom of Abraham. (Abraham is portrayed as a bearded patriarch with a lap full of souls.) First in line for eternal beatitude is a Franciscan friar followed by a king carrying a flower (perhaps representing St. Francis and St. Louis IX). In the center of the top register is the large figure of the risen Christ enthroned with both arms raised in a wide, welcoming gesture. He is flanked by angels holding instruments of his Passion while other angels hold the sun and the moon above his head. The archivolts framing the tympanum are carved with figures of archangels, angels, saints, confessors, doctors, martyrs, and prophets.The rose window above the royal portal was added in the 14th C. In 1992 UNESCO named the Bourges Cathedral of Saint-Étienne, dedicated to St. Stephen (first Christian martyr), a World Heritage Site. ca. August 1981
For more information about copyright for materials within DigitalGeorgetown, please consult https://www.library.georgetown.edu/copyright/digitalgeorgetown.
MetadataShow full item record
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.
Cathedral of Saint-Étienne, West Facade Central Portal Tympanum Carving of the Last Judgment Cioffi, Paul L., 1928-2004 (1981-08)