Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals – St Colmans Cathedral, Cobh

Home Forums Ireland reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals – St Colmans Cathedral, Cobh


The following pictures show a number of portals with red doors. This is a clue to the ancient use of church portals throughout western Europe and provides the wider context in which portals such as Moissac, Charlieu, and those of the great Cathedrals should be seen. While the portal obviously provides access and egress from the church, its more important social function was that of a locus for the administration of both ecclesiastical and civil justice. Basically, these great portals were the courts of justice and were designated as such by the painiting of their doors in red. The colour was especially connected with royal justice. Also, the portals of the churches served as places in which oaths were administered, contracts perfected and all sorts of other legal acts, such as the swearing of fealty, took place. Marriage was formally contracted in the portico of the church before the bride and groom were lead into the church. Weights and measures were publicly promulgated and exhibited in the church porticos. This function had an influence on the plastic decoration of the portals and on the choice of theme to be depicted. Usually, the dominant tympan will depict Christ in his Divine Majesty, source of all justice. The Last Judgment is a later theme focusing on the rewads of good and evil. In the porico itself, it was not unusual to find figures such as Solomon, the Old Testament exemplification of Justice or St. John the Baptist. In the north Italian Romanesque, as at Piacenza, lions are characteristically found supporting the columns of the portico. Here again is a reference to Solomon -whose throne was held up by lions. Indeed, in many medieval contracts and legal documents it is not infrequent to find that such were done “ad portas”, “ante portam”, “in gallilea”, “in atrio”. In northern Italy the expression “inter duos leones” frequently occurs. As at Moissac, the prophet Isaiah features in medieval church porticos alluding to his prophacy of the eschatological kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness. In the case of Cobh, the tympan is directly influenced by the Royal Portal at Chartres while the figures in the portico depict St. John the Baptist, another precursor of the eschatological kingdom of peace and justice but the iconographic composition fails somewhat by the introduction of the figure of St. Joseph, unless he is seen as the biblical faithful stewart placed over the household. In conservation terms, even elements such as the colours of paint on doors can have an important significance. Unfortunately, at Moissac the door colour has vanished since the time of the French Revolution and has not been recovered.

The Abbatiale de St. Gilles-du-Gard dating from the second quarter of the twelfth century which, after almost a thousand years conservs its tradition of painting the abbey doors red :

Paroissiale de St Armel in Ploermel, Brittany, depicting the the triumph of virtue over vice.

Chapelle de Notre Dame de Kernascléden, Brittany: portail:

Le Faouet, Brittany, Chapelle de St. Fiacre (an Irish man) west portail:

Le Faouet, Brittany, Chapelle de Sainte Barbre, west portail:

Le Guerno, Brittany, Paroissiale de Notre Dame:

The Portico of the Cathedral of Piacenza, built last half of the twelfth cenntury and in the first half of the thirteenth, supported by the pair of lions so characteristic of the Lombard Romanesque:

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