UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Multi-levelled imagery in the tympanium of the Porte-de-Ste-Anne at Notre-Dame in Paris Cosgrove, Colleen Anne


The tympanum of the Porte-de-Ste-Anne at Notre-Dame, Paris, has aroused the interest of scholars for decades. The lack of inscription or documentation has led to the ascription of various identities to the figures depicted in company with the Theotokos. Apart from assigning it a donative or commemorative function, little light has been shed on the subject by the many extant theories. To further complicate the problem, the physical composition of the portal has only recently been deciphered. It is the consensus of current opinion that the portal, erected from the ground up, was begun as early as 1140-45. Also, the earliest sculptural components, the tympanum, upper lintel, archivolts and jamb-statues are thought to have been created for the refurbishment of the older church prior to the current building, although they may never have been used. This thesis has attempted to demonstrate the tympanum scene actually depicts the equality of regnum and sacerdotium in an accord brought about by a balance of forces, both political and theological, which produced the Ideal State. I have been concerned with an examination of the twelfth century events which could have exerted an influence on the development of the iconographical program. In so doing, I have outlined the pertinent historical background of the building itself, including a description of the portal and its sculptures, as well as a short discussion of the main theories regarding its place within the stylistic orbit of Early Gothic development. I have described the problem of the iconography which, until recently has consisted mainly of efforts to identify the figures of king, cleric and scribe, but of late has dealt with the relationship of regnum and sacerdotium. In this context the work of Adolf Katzenellenbogen on the west front of Chartres has shed light on the portal, and his relating of the tympanum scene to the ideal relationship between the two spheres was further expanded upon by Walter Cahn. He saw in the tympanum a demonstration of the status of the royal and ecclesiastical sectors of the Christian Commonwealth during this period with power vested in the Church. The opinions of Jacques Thirion who proposes very early dates and identities agree with those of Alain Erlande-Brandenberg and Cesare Gnudi who dealt with the portal after the discovery of facade fragments in Paris in 1977. The historical setting dealt with the Capetian rulers in the person of Louis VII, and the papacy in the person of Alexander III, both of whom were in power when the portal was conceived. The pope was a central figure in events that included the first compilation of Canon law by Gratian, a development as central to this thesis as it was to Cahn's. Space has been devoted to a discussion of the Decretum, to its expression of the Ideal State, and to the iconography which arose around illustrated copies of this work, particularly as it relates to the tympanum. Also explained was Gratian's connection to the Reform Party of Haimeric. An examination of some of the symbols chosen by Cahn from the composition to support his theory has determined that they may be reinterpreted. They have been expanded on or refuted in order to illustrate the flexibility of Medieval symbolism, and in order to reveal the many levels of imagery contained in this composition. While so doing, I have I believe, exposed the propagandistic nature of the surface imagery which was deliberately cultivated by the Church with full co-operation from the State in order to expound a politico-theological reality.

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