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Current time:0:00Total duration:10:31

Last Judgment Tympanum, Cathedral of St. Lazare, Autun

Video transcript

[Music] the prospect of spending an eternity in hell is terrifying even in the abstract but to be confronted with images that depict this must have really scared the medieval mind we're looking up at the doorway of the Cathedral of Rotem which represents I think the most terrifying image of the Last Judgement of the Damned in hell that exists in art history of course it also includes heaven but I think people were probably spending much more time looking and fearing hell this is a sculpture that is one of the first monumental sculptures to be made in the medieval period there had been of course monumental sculpture in ancient Greece and ancient Rome but after the fifth century or so monumental sculpture really fell away and this has been part because of the economic a political chaos of the medieval period but it's at this time around 1,000 or just after that things begin to stabilize there's an enormous building boom of churches in Europe during this time and we begin to see monumental sculpture on the doorways of churches and inside the churches on the Capitals we have this magnificent new cathedral at Alton and it's important to remember that this was because of the relics that were here pilgrims were travelling all over Europe during this period to visit the relics that parts of saints in this case here at a tongue the bones of saint lazarus each church had relics and the relics were extremely important it was believed that they could heal the sick that could offer blessings that might even shorten one's time in purgatory if you came and paid homage to them if you prayed to them often churches were refurbished or special reliquaries were made to house those relics but in the case of o-town this church was built specifically to house the relics of lazar so they built the whole church for their relics and of course there's the spiritual dimension but there's also an economic dimension these relics were economic engines for a community because you had these pilgrims come in they needed to stay in in they needed to eat there was real economic prosperity that surrounded important relics and that's certainly the case here if you think about Lazarus the person whose bones are within the church this is the brother of Mary Magdalene who Christ brought back to life according to the New Testament this is about rebirth about a kind of hope after death and of course that is the subject of the Last Judgement so we imagine the faithful looking up at this doorway reading the sermon in stone as a bernard of clairvaux said the story of the Last Judgement people were illiterate this was how they learned these stories so the images really were text and we are meant to read them so let's go ahead and do exactly that so we have the most obvious figure Christ in the center he's bigger than everybody else this is a kind of higher attic organization the most important figure is largest by far he's so flat he's so linear and there's no concern with the proportions of his body he's elongated and we see lines that are carved into the stone to indicate these repeated folds of drapery so there's real concern with the decorative he's frontal he's symmetrical is this divine figure who stares out in judgment stares out past us as if he's on a plan that is completely different from ours he sits on a throne that is the City of heaven and you can make out of the little arched windows both below his feet and as if it was actually the furniture that he sits upon but of course that's a sort of literal reading and this is meant to be metaphoric his hands and his halo and his feet break the mandorla his Amun shape that encloses his body and his meant to function is almost a kind of full-body halo of representation of his divinity and there are four angels that surround him that seem to be ushering him forward they also are literally holding up the mandorla as if this divine light that surrounds Christ has weight and like Christ those angels are also elongated their bodies move and twist in these wonderful ways well there is this incredible kind of expressiveness so we read images of the Last Judgement thinking about Christ's left and Christ's right so on Christ's left are the Damned going to hell and on his right are the blessed who've been selected for heaven on Christ right at the top we see the Virgin Mary who's enthroned in heaven there's an angel next to her blowing a trumpet to awaken the dead and to announce the coming of Christ we can see the architecture of heaven itself with some blessed Souls within it and we can see angels as well assisting the Blessed into heaven it's interesting to note that souls are represented as nude figures one of the most famous parts of this tympanum is that figure of Saint Michael who's weighing Souls demons seem to be trying to tip the scales in favor of those who have sinned so they can get more Souls for help but it's so interesting to think about this literal representation of the weighing of souls that morality has gravity in some way look at that figure who hides in the drapery this curling lovely swirls of drapery of Saint Michael that figure is so different from the figures to the right who are being pulled up by hooks by a demon into the fires of hell who have realized that they're gonna spend eternity being tortured it's pretty bad it's terrifying I find the demons much more interesting their mouths are gaping open they look just ravenous as if they're ready to eat those Souls they've got claws there's a three headed serpent wrapping around the legs of one of the Devils there really are images of horror here there's an inscription right below the figures that makes this point exactly it reads May this terror terrify those whom earthly error binds for the horror of these images here in this manner truly depicts what will be in the video of mine there's no doubt this will happen and where will you be when this happens and don't look to Christ because Christ is looking past us it's too late so let's move down then to the area that's closest to us that speaks to this issue of which side will we be on the tympanum itself is that lunette it's that half circle but it's supported by a long cross beam which is called a lintel this is the moment when if the dead are lifted out of their graves are resurrected to be judged and this is kind of a line waiting for the judgment they're literally at this moment emerging from their tomb you can see the sarcophagi at their feet I see an angel that is clearly helping one soul but on either side there are two other souls who seem to desperately clutch at that angel hoping that he'll bring them along as well but as we move to the center things it's almost seem to become a little less certain and you can see a to people with purses one with a cross one with a scallop shell this would be a reference to pilgrims who had perhaps gone to Jerusalem who had perhaps gone to Spain trying to visit important relics so that they might be among the Blessed right to improve their chances of getting it to heaven and if you didn't things were not always work out well and so we see exactly that directly below Christ we see an angel wielding a sword toward a terrified figure who with his eyes bulging seems to try to move away from the angel and in fact everybody who's in front of the angel looks absolutely terrified look at the figure that is kneeling clutching the sides of his head almost as if he's saying how could this be true how could it have come to this and if you continue to bring your eye toward the right we see figures who are contorted in this recognition of their fate in hell they bend their knees they form angular shapes with their bodies compressed as though they're being crushed incredibly expressive in their body and dramatic absolutely but probably nothing is more dramatic than the realization on the face of the soul whose head is being clutched by two enormous claws the hands presumably of a devil who's being plucked up into hell and you can see that the sculptor carved the eyes deeply carved the open mouth evilly so that we get a sense of his almost primal scream our historians have interpreted an inscription on the doorway which reads diesel burgess hawk fake it diesel Barrett has made this as being an inscription referring to the sculptor himself but that would be extremely unusual in the modern era we associate artwork with the genius of the individual but in the medieval period artists were craftsmen artists were not seen as individual geniuses and so these objects were not signed but it was so nice to imagine that we knew the name of the artist who did it there has been some new scholarship that suggests that perhaps we have been misled and that these libertas is not actually the name of the artist the recent scholarship suggests that Geisel Veritas is actually the name of a Duke who was associated with bringing the bones of Saint Lazarus to Oh Tom it's in a way legitimizing this church as the rightful place for the bones of Lazarus but even if we don't know the name of the artist we do know the power of his work there's no doubt about that you [Music]