Capitals

Capitals

The right wall of the main entrance is dedicated to the five capitals of the crusade era, unearthed by Father Viaud at the beginning of the 1800s, in a grotto dug to the north of the crusade Basilica, close to the grotto of worship.

Each capital is decorated with episodes from the canonic apostles, the Acts of the Apostles and apocryphal writings regarding the life of the apostles. A series of arches, making up the architecture to frame the various scenes, is the decorative element that connects all the capitals, which probably belonged to a single monument. Another recurrent feature is the rustic rendering of the surface on the background of the figures, which detaches from the smooth finishing of clothing and faces, of the highest quality in the white "sultan" stone.

Four capitals are in octagonal form and represent scenes from the life of the apostles Peter, James, Matthew and Thomas. The central capital, with a different shape from the others, presents a subject once again open to debate, interpreted as the representation of Faith and of the Church.

These capitals are among the top examples of crusade sculpture, not only of the Holy Land, but of all medieval art, and show clear origins of French sculpture. There are two copies on exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of the Flagellation in Jerusalem.


Rectangular Capital of the Fides-Ecclesia

Fides-Ecclesia

The central capital shows a scene that has been open to several interpretations and represents a crowned woman holding a cross, while she travels to the left accompanied by a barefoot man among figures of the devil.

Some academics see the scene as the Byzantine theme of the liberation of Adam through the decent of Christ to the underworld. On the other hand, others identify the crowned woman with the Church Mother, holding the hand of an apostle, helping him to stand up to temptations, represented by the demons armed with bows and ready to shoot their arrows.

Octagonal capital of Saint Thomas

History of Saint Thomas

This capital is one of the four octagonal capitals. Below six arches, a unique scene is depicted, narrating the episode of the meeting between Saint Thomas and Jesus Christ, after the resurrection.

Thomas, absent at the time of the first apparition, is put to the test by Jesus who is showing the apostle the wound on his ribs, which Thomas had previously not believed in when hearing the take from the other apostles.

Christ is recognisable by the halo and the cross. The other saints present at the scene are the apostles: among these can be noted Peter, to the right of Christ and the brothers James and John in the larst arch on the left.

Octagonal capital of Saint Peter

History of SainT Peter

This capital represents two images of scenes from the life of the apostle Peter, taken from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

The three arches on the right in all likelihood represents the episode of the apparition of Jesus to the apostles, after the resurrection, at the lake of Tiberias. Peter, throwing himself from the boat to reach the shore, holds his hand out to Jesus, who is calling him. Below the three left arches there is a scene of the resurrection of the disciple Tabitha, in the city of Jaffa, by the hand of Peter, as told in the Acts of the Apostles. The apostle lifts the disciple from his deathbed, while three witnesses observe the prodigious miracle.

Octagonal capital of Saint James the Great

Histoiry of Saint James

The martyrdom of James, by the will of Herod Agrippa, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, is the main subject of this capital. However, there are also scenes that Father Bagatti recognised as belonging to the legendary life of the apostle, as recounted in the apocrypha of the Pseudo Abdia, dating back to the 6th century.

James, during a sermon to the Jews, converted a certain Philetus who had seen the apostle perform miracles. He later founded a local church (which on the capital would be symbolically represented by a bishop with tiara and a deacon) and for this reason was persecuted by Hermogenes, the bishop Abiatar and the scribe Josiah. The latter was converted by the apostle right before his martyrdom.

Octagonal capital of Saint Matthew

History of Saint Matthew

These scenes are also taken from the apocryphal acts of the Pseudo-Abdia. The scenes depicted on the capital take inspiration from the tale of the Saint's martyrdom, which took place in Ethiopia. According to the apocrypha, the apostle Matthew, presented to King Eglippus by the eunuch Candace, resuscitated Euphranor the son of the King, who he had baptised together with his family, his wives, sons (Euphranor and Beeor) and his daughter Iphigenia.

On the death of the King, the successor was Irthacus, who wanted to marry Iphigenia, who however was devoted to the Lord. Matthew, confirms the young girl in the holy resolution, granting her the veil of the consecrated virgins, requested by her kneeling before all the people. This provokes the wrath of Irthacus who, incited by the devil, condemned the apostle to death. Irtacus was succeeded by the Christian Beeor, who restored peace to the church. The subject treated is very rare in iconographic tradition.

The scene is completed with lateral images, describing the end of the King Irtacus, who kills himself after being persecuted by demons and evil spirits. At the end of the story the demons have to leave conquered.

Capitals