The south portal


The south portal is a hymn to Christ and his Church in a display of hope in the universal nature of Redemption. At the central door we again see the Saviour reigning at the end of the world, but depicted in a different way to the sculpture on the west portal. Here, we are presented with his victory over evil, shown by the image of Christ on the trumeau trampling the lion and the dragon at his feet. This sculptural cycle depicts the Last Judgment. In the centre is the motif of Intercession, on the left the martyrs and on the right the confessors, all assembled around Christ the Judge by virtue of the strength of their prayer and holiness. The Judgment itself is shown as a serene scene, very different from the fantastical depiction typical of the Romanesque era and even further removed from the simplistic images of the medieval world, obsessed with showing the punishments of Hell. The Virgin and St John are praying to the Redeemer with great veneration, while the angels bear in triumph the instruments of Christ’s suffering. It is because he has suffered that Christ is able to judge. The archangel Michael separates the Elect from the Damned. Kings, bishops, monks and burghers have turned away from the Creator while the Elect sing the glory of God in peace. In the left bay, the martyrdom of St Stephen is surrounded by the other main witnesses of Christ: St Clement, St Lawrence, St Vincent, St Denis, St Theodorus, St George, St John the Baptist, Thomas Becket, etc. On the other side we have the charitable act of St Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar and St Nicholas saving the wretched. In this way the act of love through sharing and the giving of ones own life through martyrdom converge to give meaning to the final return of man to the bosom of God.