West portal, tympanum with Last Judgment by Gislebertus, Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, c. 1120-1135, Atun France.  Photo by Henri Moreau, Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons. West portal, tympanum with Last Judgment by Gislebertus, Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, c. 1120-1135, Atun France. Photo by Henri Moreau, Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Saint-Lazare at Atun: A Friendly Reminder?

This is not a threat.  This is a promise.

The reason the photograph above of this tympanum over a portal (sculpture in the space over the doorway) is so good is because it shows how ominous this sculpture appears to anyone standing in front, waiting to walk inside the cathedral.

Most tympanum on Romanesque churches display a Last Judgment scene.  The subject was there to remind visitors that Jesus will judge them at the end of time and so they should lead a moral and just life.

This particular Romanesque tympanum is distinctive because of Gislebertus’ unique style.  The figures are abstracted and elongated for effect and the result is a terrifying scene (see below).  Jesus is the huge figure at the center and to his right (our left) the apostles cluster together as they watch the angels and demons weigh souls on his left (the right side).  Angels lift the saved souls to heaven on our left and demons cast the damned souls into a hell mouth on the right.

Along the bottom of the scene, little human souls cower in their graves, awaiting Christ’s judgment.   In a frightening detail (far below), devilish hands pluck a human soul from its grave to give it to the grimacing demons.

 

Detail, west portal, tympanum with Last Judgment by Gislebertus, Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, c. 1120-1135, Atun France. By Lamettrie, GNU Free Documentation license, via Wikimedia Commons. Detail, west portal, tympanum with Last Judgment by Gislebertus, Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, c. 1120-1135, Atun France. Photo by Urban, Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

More images of Saint-Lazare in Atun:

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