Mariology and Monumental Sculpture on the West Facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris



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MARIOLOGY AND MONUMENTAL SCULPTURE ON THE WEST FAÇADE OF NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL, PARIS Courtney S. Long As medieval pilgrims entered the cathedral of Notre-Dame, in Paris, through the west façade portals, they crossed a threshold into a sacred place, leaving behind the secular world. Walking between these two spaces, they passed sculpted imagery that illustrated religious narrative scenes found in Biblical and Apocryphal texts. Scholars in the field of art history have interpreted the meaning of these sculpted portal narratives, installed between 1160 and 1240, in several different ways. One recurring theme among current scholarship is the emphasis on political and social aspects of the iconography found on the portals dedicated to Saint Anne and the Coronation of the Virgin. This type of narrative reading focuses on historical events to determine the identity of the sculpted characters as a method to discern why their presence is significant within the main entrances to Paris s most notable cathedral. What is missing from these historical readings of the sculpted portal programs is a detailed observation of the role that the Virgin Mary plays as a central and prominent figure within the imagery on each portal. Much of the scholarship focuses on individual components of the portal programs, but does not examine how the portals relate to each other or to the programming of the west façade as a whole. The purpose of this thesis is to attempt a new reading of the portal sculpture on the west façade of Notre-Dame cathedral by examining what may have been the original intention of and influence behind the construction of these images. By using the writings of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian doctor of the Church and father of Mariology, in relation to current historical scholarship, this thesis will examine Saint Bernard s influence on the development of Marian theological expression. There is reason to believe that Bernard s writings influenced how programmers decided upon the necessary images of the Virgin for narrative decoration. Each of the portals will be reviewed as individual programmatic entities, followed by an examination of their role within the overall narrative and theological meaning of the west façade. Thus, a new interpretation will be offered for contemporary understanding of the medieval viewer s reception of theological ideas found in the sculpture at the cathedral of Notre-Dame. Willibald, Sauerlander. "Gothic Sculpture in France, 1140-1270." New York, NY: H. N. Abrams, 1973. Walter Cahn. The Tympanum of the Portal of Saint-Anne at Notre Dame de Paris and the Iconography of the Division of the Powers in the Early Middle Ages Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 32. (1969), pp. 55-72. Kathryn Horste. A Child is Born : The Iconography of the Portail Ste.-Anne at Paris The Art Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 2. (June, 1987), pp. 187-210. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Amadeus of Lausanne, "Magnificat: Homilies in Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary." Translated by Marie-Bernard Said & Grace Perigo. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1979.



Mariology, Sculpture, Virgin, Paris, Notre Dame, Medieval