Abbey South Porch

The Sculptures of the South Porch of Malmesbury Abbey

The Sculptures of the South Porch of Malmesbury Abbey
A Short Guide by M.Q. Smith


This booklet provides an introduction to the sculptures of the south porch of Malmesbury Abbey, the most important work of art of their sort in the whole of Britain. Although the material was first presented in lecture form, for the Extra Mural Department of Bristol University and for the Friends of Malmesbury Abbey, the opportunity has been taken here to include references and more details from the several books and articles in which the porch has been considered. But I have not attempted to repeat all the material or sometimes conflicting views of previous writers, nor have I in my turn aimed at originality. As the red-haired man in Pickwick Papers said, “I am not fond of anything original; I don’t like it; don’t see the necessity for it.” This seems a good approach to twelfth century art; yet I hope that in relying so much on earlier writers I have in selecting material not repeated mistakes, or when disagreeing with them, not made new ones.

Three earlier studies are of major importance:

On the Sculptures of the South Portal of the Abbey Church at Malmesbury
Proc. Cambridge Antiq. Soc. X (1900-1901).

English Sculptures of the Twelfth Century (1954)- with an excellent set of photographs.

The Iconography of the Biblical Scenes at Malmesbury Abbey
Jnl. Brit. Arch. Assoc. (1965).

Saxl and Galbraith have fully documented footnotes which will lead the student further into the study of twelfth century art, and it is to be hoped that the text and notes of this present short booklet will also prove useful in bringing to the notice of readers a variety of fascinating material, some now difficult to obtain except in good libraries but some available quite cheaply in paperback.

History of Art
Bristol University


The Architecture of the Church
The West Front
The South Porch
The Majesty
The Apostles and Angels
The Outer Archway
Virtues and Vices
Malmesbury Manuscripts
The Biblical Cycle
The Style and Character of the Carvings
Some Opinions
Descriptions of the Carvings of the South Porch:
Old Testament Series
New Testament Series
Key to the Sculptures of the Great Arch


THE world of the late twelfth century is so remote that it is possible nowadays to get only a kaleidoscopic view of it, shuffling together the fragments, often beautiful in themselves, which have survived the neglect and destruction of the passing centuries. A great effort of the imagination is needed, as well as knowledge, in order to make the remains of a once great monastery intelligible. Malmesbury Abbey, though reduced to a fragment of its former size, is yet better preserved than many of its great contemporary monasteries, such as Glastonbury or Bury St Edmunds. But, although Malmesbury Abbey has not been reduced to the status of ruins dotted across a regulation lawn, it has been less fortunate than Bury St Edmunds, or for that matter than Romanesque Winchester, St Albans, Durham or Canterbury, in that disappointingly little of the abbey’s riches in manuscripts and other treasures has survived to provide us with evidence to help us understand better the architecture and sculpture which survives. It is only by taking into account the whole range of evidence available, whether in the texts or illustrations of manuscripts, or in the applied arts that it becomes possible to begin to understand the character of the art of a building like Malmesbury Abbey. The art is theocentric, and its character dominated by the church and by monastic learning.

The Architecture of the Church

The standard description of Malmesbury Abbey is that by Harold Brakspear, published with photographs and a detailed plan in Archaeologia LXIV (1912). Much still remains uncertain about the details of the planning both of the church and of the ancillary buildings1. Full details of the history of the abbey are recorded in the Victoria County History of Wiltshire (vol. II, 1956, pp. 210-231), and major documents for the historian are printed in the Registrum Malmesburiense (Rolls Series)2.

The ruins of the abbey, before any of the important works of restoration, appealed to the Romantic imagination of several writers and to artists including Turner: this is a topic which might well be explored in an exhibition catalogue, but must not delay us now. The surviving parts of the abbey church are a fine example of the late and local version of Romanesque, a west country variant of the Anglo—Norman; the alterations made to the structure in the fourteenth century do not concern us here. For the Romanesque work there is unfortunately not sufficient evidence to allow very precise dating. The great local historian, William of Malmesbury3, does not mention the building of a new church: he died in 1143. It is possible that the date of the completion of the church is indicated by a letter of about 1177 in which Pope Alexander III instructs the Bishops of Worcester and London to dedicate the church even if the Bishop of Sarum was causing difficulties4.

The nave, as it stands today, a fragment of a much larger church, seems characteristically English. It can be compared, for example, with similarly dated fragmentary naves such as Waltham Abbey or Binham Priory, or Dunfermline Abbey. None of these naves has a stone vault; Waltham has a line flat timber ceiling restored on the model of that at Peterborough. But at Malmesbury, the detailing of the elevation seems to suggest that there may have been an intention from the start of building a high vault: though the present form of the vaulting shafts is now in the form of triplets related to the fourteenth century vault, the individual stones seem to be bonded into the walling, not added later.

By the time Malmesbury nave was being built, a number of churches were being designed to have stone vaults. Durham Cathedral and Kirkstall Abbey are unforgettable English examples, but useful comparisons are to be noticed with continental churches, for example with the group of line churches in Northern Italy which includes Parma, Modena and Fidenza. Modena, a church of great importance for its sculpture, was clearly designed from the very beginning to be vaulted, and like Fidenza (nave vault dated c. 1162), shows the strengthening of the gallery openings which is so characteristic a feature of the design at Malmesbury. The effect of these closed galleries is doubtless of structural as well as aesthetic significance. But whereas at Modena and Durham the main arcade has an alternating rhythm of light and heavy piers related to the vaulting, at Malmesbury all the piers of the arcade are of the same design. The circular piers, a form so frequently encountered in west country churches, are not linked at all to vaulting supports.

The only early vaulting is in the aisles, and the use of the pointed arch for the main arcade and for the bay divisions proves them to be advanced in design, compared to the north nave aisle vault at Gloucester which uses semicircular forms throughout. The use of pointed arches in a main arcade at Fountains Abbey in c. 1140 is not strictly comparable, for there the aisle vaults are transverse tunnels, not rib vaults5.

The interesting position of Malmesbury Abbey in the origins of the structural and decorative features of Gothic is further indicated by the treatment of the hollow—walling in the middle storey of the west wall of the ruined south transept, and the further development of this feature at Worcester and Wells, making use also of the decorative disks or paterae set around the nave clerestory windows.

Such features as these allowed Brakspear, in his article, A West Country School of Masons (Archaeologia LXXX1, 1931) to identify continuity in design in a large group of west country churches—the earliest of which is Romanesque Malmesbury, and the later ones of which are Gothic. There is, however, no comparable evidence to suggest that the sculptors responsible for the carving of the south porch were members of a similar west country school of sculptors such as has been identified in Herefordshire. Nor, it is important to note, is there any indication that the sculptors responsible for the carving at Malmesbury, although working in the second half of the twelfth century had any knowledge of the new Gothic style evolving in the Ile de France: their art remained entirely Romanesque, stylised, extravagantly decorative, and at times, naive, barbaric and powerful.

The West Front

Even though certain elements of the architecture of Malmesbury Abbey seem to anticipate the earliest phases of Gothic, the building as a whole remains entirely Romanesque in spirit; the extravagance of the ornamental detailing of the west front is typical of a late phase of the style. The richness of blank arcading and interlace can be seen on other west fronts of the same date, such as that of Castle Acre Priory, Norfolk, while the west country mannerism of omitting capitals between the vertical shafting and the semi-circular arch can be seen in such buildings as the Chapter House of Bristol Cathedral.

The fall of a tower, built over the two westernmost bays of the nave in the late fourteenth century, has severely damaged the front, but it seems certain that there was never any close similarity to the much more Gothic sculptural detailing still surviving on the central portal of the west front of Rochester Cathedral, dateable as a whole to c. 11756. The two sections of the right hand side of the Malmesbury portal are now almost illegible, and even in old engravings the detail is shown to have been considerably eroded. The iconographic scheme is usually identified, on no very sure evidence, as one of the Labours of the Months and Signs of the Zodiac. John Aubrey, that most entertaining of the writers on Malmesbury, records

      “Without the Church at the West end,
        on one side is the Sagittary and on
        the other the Griffin.”7

M. R. James identified the Centaur, for Sagittarius, on the north face of the capital of the doorway, and hesitantly suggested that the three roundels of the arch might be

       lower scene
       middle scene
       top scene
       a man feasting
       a man with buckets
       slaughtering a beast
       December or January

Cycles of the Labours of the Months and of the Signs of the Zodiac are not frequently encountered in surviving English Romanesque art: the source for such a scheme in sculpture would have been a calendar in a psalter or other manuscript8.

The South Porch

A great porch facing the town is a feature of most of the major churches of the west country, and it is through such a porch, not from the west front that one enters the church. Elaborate forms of structure and decoration distinguish the porches at Wells, Gloucester, Exeter, Hereford and Salisbury, but none of them has so complex a scheme of figurative carving as survives at Malmesbury.

The porch has a simple rib vault, reconstructed in 1905; an upper chamber or parvise, now used as a museum, is structurally part of the heavy outer walling added in the fourteenth century, as if, perhaps, to provide the lower parts of a tower.

The sculpture of the porch is arranged in three inter-related parts: a Majesty over the doorway into the south aisle of the church, six apostles carved on the upper parts of each of the side walls of the porch, and a complex narrative and symbolic scheme carved in medallions on the continuous mouldings of the great arch at the entry to the porch. There is no comparable arrangement in any British church; the most important but perhaps fortuitous parallel is with the famous south porch of Moissac, the Cluniac abbey near Toulouse, where a Judgement scene (c. 1115) appears in the tympanum, supplemented by figures of Saints Peter and Paul, Jeremiah and Isaiah at the sides of the doors, and biblical and moral subjects on the inner side walls of the porch (c. 1135)9.

The Majesty

The vision of the Lord in Majesty is one of the great themes of the Romanesque artist; it is the subject most commonly selected for sculptors to portray in the tympanum over the entry to a church. English examples include those at Ely and Rochester, and many more in parish churches, such as those at Stanton St Quinton, a few miles from Malmesbury, at Lullington, Somerset, set between flat paterae like those on Malmesbury clerestory, and at Rowlestone, one of the Herefordshire group10.

The doorway itself is only about five feet wide; the enclosing archway is uninterrupted by capitals, having continuous mouldings in the west country fashion. The tympanum is formed of seven wedge-shaped stones which, since there is no lintel, have slipped a little, especially towards the left (west) corner. The design of the sculpture is iconographically simple; in the centre is the Almighty, seated on a rainbow. He holds a book in his left hand, and raises his right in blessing. Around him shines an oval halo, or mandorla, which is supported by a pair of angels.

It is perhaps easier with the Majesty than with any other part of the sculptures to imagine the original effects of coloration, for plenty of representations of the Majesty in full colour survive, in enamels, or in such manuscripts as the Bury Bible (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge MS 2). Fragments of original colour appear to survive on the very rich decorative borders of the archway; an idea of how such borders might have looked in all the richness of their original colouring can be gained by studying the borders of manuscript illuminations. Particularly fine ones can be seen in the St Albans Psalter (now at Hildesheim). The present contrast between the richness of an ornamented porch and the relatively undecorated nave is now very striking, but when both interior and exterior were coloured, the imagery of the porch would doubtless have been but part of a larger sequence of decoration.

Six apostles and an angel Inner porch west side

Six apostles and an angel Inner porch west side

The Apostles and Angels (See illustration above)

For colouring on a monumental scale, the Apostles of the Majesty in the painted vault of Kempley (Glos.) provide a very useful aid to the correct reading of the Malmesbury Apostles, especially in that the borders of the Kempley paintings are so fine and play so important a part in the total effect of the composition.

The Malmesbury Apostles are seated six to either side of the porch in the lunettes between the blank arcading and the vault. Though very different in scale from the Majesty, they have similarly been carved directly on to the structure of the porch. They are not, as has sometimes been thought, older pieces re-erected, for the drapery style and the detailing of the thrones can be directly compared with similar features in the scenes of the great outer archway.

Of the apostles, only two are easily identifiable: St Peter with his key, seated at the right hand of the Almighty, and opposite, on the eastern wall of the porch, is St Paul with the characteristic bald forehead and long beard. Whatever may have been the inspiration of the groups, they prove very impressive. Only St Peter stares straight ahead; St Paul leans back as he turns towards the vision of the Almighty. Two others bend their heads as if in meditation. The other eight are arranged in pairs, as if talking to each other. Four of the Apostles have crossed their ankles, a pose which enlivens the composition and may be indicative of influence from south west France. The figures are not arranged symmetrically, their feet and heads and hands create lively patterns. Those who hold books—perhaps Matthew, James and John—do not do so in identical positions, and additional variety is achieved by depicting the apostle next to St Peter with a scroll. This would originally, no doubt, have been painted with an inscription, as would the scrolls held by the angels above.

More than one authority has suggested a comparison with the Apostles on the lintel below the Majesty of the central door of the west portal at Chartres, dating from c. 1150. Certainly there are some features in common, though they may derive from a common source rather than being a direct influence the one on the other. The difference between the Chartres and Malmesbury sculptures is of great importance, for the logical change of scale between a large Majesty and smaller apostles at Chartres is not echoed at Malmesbury, where the separation of the iconographical elements of a Last Judgement into sections in different scales is difficult to explain.

On the lintel at Chartres, the twelve apostles are flanked by two extra male figures whose identity is uncertain; at Malmesbury an angel is sculpted above each group of Apostles. Their poses bear a superficial resemblance to the pose of the famous late Anglo—Saxon angels at Bradford-on-Avon, but the style of cutting the stone is quite different, as is the elongation of the proportions. The linear cutting of the drapery over their rounded bodies and the curiously distorted pose of the angel on the east wall can be compared with similar features recognisable on the angels of the Majesty tympanum.

Yet, as will be seen, even if the old theory that the Apostle carvings are re-used Anglo-Saxon work must be rejected, nonetheless, it is possible to recognise considerable influences from Anglo-Saxon manuscripts on the rest of the sculptures. In the church itself, the beast heads of the label-stops and at the apex of the hood-moulds of the main arcade have Anglo-Saxon sources and precedents, including the Deerhurst heads. One of the difficult problems for the art historian of the twelfth century is that of recognising and interpreting an apparent revival of Anglo-Saxon elements in the decades after c. 1140. Malmesbury which had so strong an Anglo-Saxon tradition may well have been central in this revival; certainly there is very clear evidence of the ways in which Anglo—Saxon manuscripts influenced artists working a century after the Norman Conquest.

The Outer Archway

The great entry arch to the porch is about eighteen feet wide overall. It is the largest example of the continuously moulded arch, without capitals between the verticals and the semi—circle, so characteristic of the late Romanesque of the West Country. It consists of eight orders, three of which are semi-circular in profile and carved with continuous cycles of symbolic and narrative subjects. The innermost order and the four flattish orders which provide strong borders to separate the three sets of scenes are carved with fine repetitive patterns, one of which has been recognised as occurring on the church at Aulnay in south-west France. The idea of creating a porch and archway with a sculptural programme may reflect a more general influence from south-west France; there is indeed at about this period precise evidence of the influence of churches near Poitiers, on the pilgrimage route to Santiago, on the designs used by the Herefordshire school of sculptors. But there is too evidence of influence the other way, from England to the continent, and some aspects of this will be mentioned later. It is perhaps truer to think in terms of mutual inter-relationships rather than to search for direct evidence of influence in one direction only.

In England there is only one earlier sculptured cycle, the Genesis frieze across the west front of Lincoln, dateable to c. 1140; a Majesty, apparently part of the scheme, survives now only in fragments.The style and content of the frieze can be compared with that on the west front of Modena in North Italy, the work of a sculptor named Wiligelmo and dateable to 1099-110611. These comparisons are useful only in general terms, in the use of narrative cycles to adorn an entry; much closer relationships, for the arrangement of scenes around an arch, and also for some features of style and iconography, are to be found in the art of the Romanesque churches of Saintonge, particularly at such churches as Saintes itself, Aulnay, Chadenac, Fenioux and Fontaines d’Ozillac12.

Virtues and Vices

One of the subjects commonly encountered on these churches is that of the Battle of the Virtues and Vices, a theme based on a poem, the Psychomachia, by the fourth century Spanish poet, Prudentius13. At Malmesbury it is still possible to recognise some of the episodes of this subject, on the lower parts of the outer order of figure subjects (on the diagram, A-H). Originally there were four episodes on either side, but now only the topmost pair of those on the left (western) side are still at all legible (C and D). These show the Virtue standing triumphantly upright upon the fallen figure of the Vice.

The same subject appears locally on fonts at Stanton Fitzwarren, Wilts., and Southrop, Glos. In these examples, the figures are exactly identifiable since carved inscriptions have survived, and the same is the case with the cycle at Aulnay14.

For the Malmesbury sculptures the most important complementary evidence is that rare chance, the survival of a manuscript presented in the tenth or eleventh century to Malmesbury Abbey and containing the literary theme of the sculptured cycle. This is the illustrated copy of Prudentius’ Psychomachia, now MS. 23 at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, dateable to c. 1000. In all there are 89 outline drawings, executed in coloured inks, all by the same artist15.

Malmesbury Manuscripts

The survival of the Malmesbury Prudentius is perhaps better fortune than might have been expected. In all only about thirty—two manuscripts survive which can reasonably be connected with this great centre of learning; of them perhaps the most important are the historical works of William of Malmesbury, though these provide no help to students of the porch sculptures16. The sad story of the destruction of the abbey’s manuscripts was recorded at some length by the famous local antiquary, John Aubrey. The grandson of the purchaser of the abbey, Mr. William Stump, “was a proper man and a good fellow; and when he brewed a barrel of special ale his use was to stop the bunghole, under the clay, with a sheet of manuscript; he said nothing did it so well, which methought did grieve me much to see . . . ”

If more Malmesbury manuscripts had survived, it would have been much easier no doubt to recognise the general programmes and individual subjects of the defaced lower parts of the two inner orders of the great arch. Of the original thirty-two roundels (I-XXXII), about a third are entirely lost or completely indecipherable, and only about a third are sufficiently well preserved for us to be at all optimistic about suggesting identifications of the subjects; with so small a proportion of the cycles preserved, it is difficult to be certain of either the order of the scenes or of the programme as a whole. Some of the more easily recognisable of the subjects appear also on the well—preserved door-jambs of the roughly contemporary Priors’ Door at Ely Cathedral, but the content of the programme there is far from logical. Professor Zarnecki has, however, shown that the Ely scheme has features in general design and in particulars of iconography which are to be found also in the illustration of a calendar in a contemporary manuscript perhaps written at Worcester17.

Such identifications of individual roundels at Malmesbury as are still possible are listed in the Key to the Sculptures. If the identification of some subjects (e.g. IV and XV) as Zodiacal Signs is correct, it is possible that others (e.g. V, XII and XXII) may be Labours of the Months. These are subjects also thought to have appeared on the west door. Somewhere in the whole scheme, either on the west door or on the south porch, some of the roundels may have represented the Liberal Arts.

The Biblical Cycle

The scenes of the three orders of the curve of the archway are based on the Old and New Testaments. The thirty-eight scenes are arranged in clockwise fashion; short descriptions of each scene in order will be found on pages 16-23.

No other contemporary or immediately earlier monumental scheme surviving in England is as comprehensive. But the understanding of even the most damaged and eroded scenes is made much easier since comparable cycles and individual scenes survive in a number of manuscripts, particularly of Anglo-Saxon date. It is not just a matter of “influence—hunting” which makes these comparisons so important; without such comparative material it would be difficult to identify the less well-preserved scenes of the archway. It is, though, perhaps due only to the destruction of so much other material of the period that now, eight hundred years after the sculptures were cut, most of the useful comparisons are with manuscripts. But the close links already noticed between the Malmesbury sculptures of the Psychomachia, the Battle of the Virtues and Vices, and the text of that subject in a manuscript with illustrations known to have belonged to the Abbey is emphatically significant, taken in conjunction with the fact that for six scenes of the Biblical cycle (13, 17, 19, 20, 33 and 35) very precise parallels have been recognised in the illustrations of Aelfric’s Paraphrase 0f the Pentateuch (British Museum Cotton Claudius B iv), a Canterbury manuscript dating from the second quarter of the twelfth century. Another four scenes (24, 32, 37 and 38), even though badly damaged, can be better understood by comparison with the illustrations in a psalter (British Museum Cotton Tiberius C vi) dateable to c. 1050 and probably of Winchester origin. Other important comparisons suggested include ones with other manuscripts from the same intellectual and artistic milieu (the Caedmon manuscript, from Canterbury?, now Bodleian MS. Junius II; and New York Pierpont Morgan MS. 709 and British Museum Arundel 60, both probably from Winchester).

There is no necessity here to repeat all the details of each parallel with manuscript illustrations; some of the most important are referred to in the descriptions of the scenes. The cumulative effect of the detective work of a series of scholars is to allow us to identify the artistic context of the cycle and the sources which inspired its conception.

It is significant that although the Creation cycle is the part of the scheme most closely identifiable with precise Anglo—Saxon sources, many of the other scenes can also be related similarly to the same or closely comparable pre-conquest traditions. But this does not mean that the Malmesbury sculptors and their patrons were, in about 1170, over a century out of date, nor, putting it more optimistically, were they merely returning to the glories of a past age. The details of the iconography of individual scenes may be based on much revered ancient models, but the way in which the cycles of Old and New Testament scenes are organised is in a new, up-to-date manner characteristic of the mature Romanesque. There is some evidence to suggest that many of the ideas basic to schemes of typological decoration were English in origin: one of the most important of the early manuscripts devoted to the subject, the Pictor in Carmine, is probably of west country origin18.

Although there is no other similarly complex scheme of Romanesque sculpture in Britain which can provide any helpful parallel to Malmesbury, other forms of church decoration must not be forgotten. Foremost among the earliest great schemes to include typological cycles are the windows made for the Early Gothic east end of Canterbury Cathedral; of schemes of wall—painting in England, Hardham is the best example, and Clayton (both in Sussex) doubtless had the same sort of programme. Amongst the schemes now lost, but variously recorded, were those at Peterborough and at Worcester, probably in the chapter house. Another example was to be seen on a retable at Bury St Edmunds, known only from written records. That such a way of organising a programme was widely known is indicated by the schemes found on the enamelled covered cups known as ciboria. Two, the “Warwick” and “Kennet” ciboria, are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, while a third, known as the “Malmesbury ciborium” is in the Pierpont Morgan collection in New York19. This is said to have come from Malmesbury; the group as a whole seems to be of west country origin. On its bowl, the Malmesbury ciborium has six Old Testament scenes and six New Testament subjects on the cover. The inscriptions which explain the scenes are the same as those recorded in the Worcester Cathedral cycle.

The theme of Virtues and Vices also appears on enamels, on a crozier in the Museo Nazionale in Florence, and on a casket in the Treasury of Troyes Cathedral; both are considered to be probably of English workmanship.

The Style and Character of the Sculptures

Although Professor Zarnecki has noted differences in detail which he interpreted as showing that the outer arches were carved before they were erected, this may be questioned. In many cases, figures and their enclosing borders cross joints in the masonry; this is especially noticeable in the third of the New Testament scenes, where the top half of the Annunciation to the Shepherds has been entirely eroded. Amongst local examples which show most clearly the ways in which a sculptor worked on an already erected arch, the most important is the south door of the Lady Chapel at Glastonbury where the work was never completed.

No very precise stylistic parallels can be found anywhere in British Romanesque sculpture which will explain the genesis of the style so characteristic of Malmesbury. In many ways the most useful comparisons are with manuscript drawings and illuminations. Besides the ones mentioned already, such as the Malmesbury Psychomachia manuscript, Saxl also illustrates a series of stylistic parallels from mature Romanesque illuminations from manuscripts such as the Lambeth Bible and the Winchester Psalter.

The sculptor responsible for the main part of the porch carvings at Malmesbury was clearly not a beginner. But where he learnt his craft is not known. One possibility is that he came from the Saintonge. Professor Zarnecki has suggested that masons may have moved from Old Sarum to Lincoln, and then to Malmesbury. It would seem likely that the Malmesbury master was perhaps a generation younger than the master responsible for the works at Lincoln or at Ely, and perhaps of the same age as the masters in charge at Rochester and perhaps also at Chichester. But in style he resembles none of these, nor can any very useful comparisons be made with any of the works of any other sculptors in the west country. The Herefordshire School styles are quite distinctive, while the Southrop and Stanton Fitzwarren fonts, though in their use of the Psychomachia theme they are linked to Malmesbury in subject-matter, are in style completely different. The Malmesbury master seems to have founded no “school”; he was one of the last exponents of the Romanesque in this part of Britain. The next portal sculptures in the west country are on the Lady Chapel at Glastonbury and are in an early Gothic manner. Subsequently with the spandrel carvings of the new east end at Worcester, with the capitals and west front at Wells, and with the Chapter House at Salisbury, the style is fully developed Gothic. The whole world of the Romanesque disappeared in a half century of artistic revolution. The world of Malmesbury porch disappeared, to be replaced by a new one, different in structure, technique, and aesthetic. Compare and contrast—as the question in an examination paper might ask-the south porch of Malmesbury and the west front of Wells20.

Some Opinions

. . . It was once a most magnificent building, and there is now a doorway which is the most beautiful thing I ever saw . . .

                WILLIAM COBBETT: Rural Rides, 1830

The West Midland (style) is perhaps the most typical English in developing its own way . . . The most impressive is the great south porch at Malmesbury . . . Here then for the first time we are confronted with a connected religious scheme evidently dictated by a learned ecclesiastic in accordance with the scholastic theology of the day . . . This sculpture is weather-worn, and many of the subjects difficult to make out, but the old cloister-craft technique is still in evidence. If we place such a figure as the resurrected Christ beside a contemporary manuscript drawing we cannot fail to be struck by the similarities of treatment in the folds of drapery, the double lines and smooth patches over projecting portions of the anatomy like thighs or knees . . .

                A. GARDNER: English Medieval Sculpture (new edition, 1951)

Artisitic activity during the long, unhappy period of the Great Anarchy of King Stephen’s reign was less affected by political events than might be expected from the accounts of bloodshed, pillage and misery inflicted on the country by both contending parties. Except in the centres which suffered most, churches were built and decorated as before, books illuminated and a wide variety of objects made in metal and ivory. In fact, this period witnessed achievements in sculpture . . . The most important decorative scheme in which the western French influence is present is that of Malmesbury Abbey . . . Although the indebtedness of the sculptures at Malmesbury to that of Western France is a strong possibility, its connections with English work should not be over-looked . . .

The Malmesbury apostles having been protected by the porch, are well preserved and are of outstanding quality . . . These sculptures are inspired works that need not fear comparison with the best Romanesque achievements abroad.

                G. ZARNECKI: Later English Romanesque Sculpture (1953)

. . . Battered and blunted as is the detail, the dramatic tension of the poses, and the elegance of the damp fold drapery cannot be altogether obscured . . . It is in fact in its varied treatment of the doorway that Anglo-Norman art realized some of its happiest achievements. So satisfactorily did they frame the entrance to the church that later ages were loath to part with these ingenious and memorable portals . . .

                T. S. R. BOASE English Art 1100-1260 (1953)

In the elaborate south porch at Malmesbury there has survived a carefully planned scheme of the Romanesque period, which, apart from the Lincoln frieze, is unique in this country for iconographic complexity . . . Those medallions which until recently were still relatively well preserved show compositions of great dramatic intensity coupled with exquisite technical execution . . . (The) buoyancy and grace, and many of the details by which they are achieved, are a legacy from the pre-Conquest manuscript style . . . it looks as if the Malmesbury carvers were combining local architectural and sculptural traditions with stylistic influences emanating originally from the Winchester scriptorium . . .

                L. STONE: Sculpture in Britain: The Middle Ages (1955)

The most ambitious attempt to bring English sculptural decoration up to date by incorporating into it narrative and allegorical subjects was made at Malmesbury Abbey, but it ended in failure. The traditional subject of Christ in Majesty on the tympanum and the twelve apostles on the lintel was here divided between three separate tympana, placed in a porch. The Christ over the doorway is framed with numerous decorative orders, with the result that in the limited space available, this tympanum was very much smaller than the two side tympana containing the apostles. The historiated and allegorical subjects of the outer doorway have the quality and delicacy of small ivories or applied metal work, and in spite of their elaborate iconography, their impact is chiefly decorative.

                G. ZARNECKI: The Transition in English Sculpture; Acts of the
                XXth International Congress of the History of Art (1965)

The Biblical Scenes

The following short descriptions of the scenes with brief notes on connexions with other relevant material are aimed at helping visitors to identify the individual scenes and to understand some of the details of their iconography. For convenience sake, some of the Biblical quotations have been abbreviated and simplified.

Inner order, reading clockwise:

1 Creation of Adam        Genesis ii, 7
The Lord God, a tall figure on the right, is bending over, left foot forward, right knee bent, shaping the body of man from the dust of the ground
(bottom left). Adam, whose head is lost, is still a limp body with bent legs and his right arm hanging down. Behind the Almighty is a fragment of foliage representing the Garden, or perhaps the Tree of Knowledge.

2 Creation of Eve        Genesis ii, 21-22
The Almighty is again shown on the right of the scene, but this time with right knee forward and left leg tense; this lively pose is reminiscent of eleventh century Winchester drawings. At the bottom left Adam is sleeping, his left knee raised; Eve is being pulled from his side, a lively figure with hands raised and her face raised towards her Creator.

3 God’s Prohibition        Genesis iii, 1-5
The Lord God is the robed figure with the raised hand on the left of the group; he turns to the two figures behind him, Adam and Eve, both naked, the man and his wife, and not ashamed.

4 The Fall        Genesis ii, 6
Eve, in the centre of the scene, is passing the apple to Adam, on the left. On the right is the serpent coiled around the Tree; some of the branches extend beyond the confines of the frame.

5 Adam and Eve Hiding        Genesis iii, 8
“And the eyes of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked . . . and Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.” Adam and Eve are shown crouching behind the foliage of three trees. Once again some foliage extends beyond the frame of the scene, and this episode reads easily as a continuation of the previous one. The story continues into the next roundel.

6 God Calling to Adam and Eve        Genesis iii, 9-19
This scene, at the top centre of the inner order of the arch, contains only a single figure, the majestic Lord God calling unto Adam “Where art thou? What is this that thou hast done?”

The Lord is a larger than usual figure, his feet and head over-lapping the border. His head is turned and his right hand raised towards the hiding couple in the previous roundel; his left hand holds back either the billowing ends of his full drapery or the swirling curves of a scroll.

7 The Expulsion        Genesis iii, 23-24
The Lord God is shown on the left himself driving the fallen pair from the Garden; Adam is in the centre, and on the right, Eve who covers her nakedness with her hands. The nakedness of Adam and Eve, who ought according to the Biblical text to be clothed, and the omission of any representation of the Gate of Paradise indicate that the iconography of this scene, like that of some others in the cycle, can be traced back to Carolingian models.

8 An Angel gives a Spade to Adam and a Distaff to Eve
In the centre is an angel in a robe, wings raised high; to left and right are Adam and Eve, still surprisingly shown naked. This subject is not in the Bible, but occurs in the St Swithun’s, or Winchester, Psalter (British Museum Cotton Nero C iv), produced probably in Winchester in c. 1150-6021.

9 Adam and Eve Labouring
Like the previous scene, this subject is not in the Bible but was nevertheless popular. Eve is seated at the left of the scene, holding the distaff upright on her knee; Adam is digging in the centre, and on the right is a bush or tree.

One of the places in which this scene can be studied is in the very full cycle of the Creation and Fall depicted in mosaic in the first dome of the narthex of St Mark’s, Venice. This cycle is based on a set of illustrations found in one of the earliest illustrated manuscripts of Genesis, the Cotton Genesis (British Museum Otto B vi) which dates perhaps from the sixth century.

1O Eve Nursing Cain        Genesis iv, 1
This subject is not one found in the main “Cotton tradition,” but is found in Carolingian illuminations. The main seated figure is Eve with Cain in her arms, perhaps at the breast. Adam on the right is now badly damaged, and it is difficult to be certain what he is doing; perhaps, as in some illuminations, he is using his hoe.

11 Sacrifice of Cain and Abel        Genesis iv, 3-5
The scene is very badly damaged, but it is possible to interpret the otherwise almost unintelligible remains of the scene by comparison with a similar composition in the great cycle of Genesis scenes painted on the tunnel vault of the nave of St Savin sur Gartempe, near Poitiers. These paintings have their sources in Anglo-Saxon manuscript illustrations22. The central figure in the painting is the Almighty, facing Abel on the left and turning his back on Cain to the right; this version is a reversal of the usual order of the figures which show Abel to the right of the Almighty.

Middle order, reading clockwise

12 God warns Noah        Genesis vi, 9-22
The Lord, with a halo, is on the left facing Noah on the right. At either side of the figures are trees whose branches and trunks extend beyond the beaded frame of the composition. “And God said unto Noah, the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy them. Make thee an ark. I do bring a flood, and everything that is in the earth shall die.”

The subject appears in a similar composition in Anglo-Saxon illustrations, and in the sculptures of Modena and Lincoln.

13 Noah builds the Ark        Genesis vi, 22
“Thus did Noah, according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” Noah is bent over the hull of the ark, and seems to be struggling with heavy timbers.

At Lincoln part only of the scene appears, showing Noah with an assistant; both men hold axes. A better parallel is in an Anglo-Saxon manuscript, Aelfric’s Metrical Paraphrase of the Pentateuch and Joshua (British Museum Cotton Claudius B iv, f. 13V) which shows Noah bending to lift a timber into position. The manuscript is from St Augustine’s, Canterbury, and dates from c. 1025-50.

14 Noah in the Ark        Genesis vii-viii, 12
Although damaged, it is still possible to make out the main features of the design and to be even more confident in interpreting the sculpture by comparison with the drawing in the eleventh century Caedmon manuscript (Oxford Bodleian Junius II, f. 66). The ark has a pyramidal superstructure in three tiers, and apparently unseaworthy design, but one which the Lord had commanded: “Make a roof for the ark and finish it to a cubit above . . . make it with lower, second and third decks.” In the Caedmon illustration, which is the only other representation of the subject in this form, Noah is shown to the left with a steering paddle: this can be seen to the left of the Malmesbury relief. In both drawing and sculpture, the ark itself is clearly of a northern, Viking-like design with the hull built with a steeply curved prow and stern, with small holes for oars.

15 Abraham offers Isaac        Genesis xxii, 1-14
God said “Take now thine only son Isaac, and offer him for a burnt offering.” This is one of the most popular of Old Testament subjects, being a pre-figuration of the Crucifixion. It is now difficult to decipher the details of the pose of Isaac—the crouched figure on the right. Abraham is in the centre, with his left hand on his son towards whom he turns his head. Meanwhile from a cloud above Abraham’s right shoulder an angel dives downward, arm outstretched to prevent Abraham from raising his sword. The angel seems to be holding a scroll, shown below the sword. “And the angel of the Lord said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy only son . . . ”

The design is unusual in that Abraham is looking at his son rather than at the angel, and also in the apparent omission of the altar.

16 Abraham finds the Ram        Genesis xxii, I3
“And Abraham looked, and behold him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” The scene is well-preserved and easy to decipher. It is a very rare subject to find on its own; usually the ram caught in the thicket is shown in the background of the episode in the previous roundel.

17 God shows the Stars to Abraham        Genesis xv, 2-6
This is a curious and rather rare subject, and not the one which might have been expected next. The text of Genesis xxii tells how, after the angel had prevented the sacrifice of Isaac, he appeared again to tell Abraham that the Almighty had sworn that “because thou hast not withheld thine only son, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven.” But the Malmesbury sculptor has shown, as did the illustrator of Aelfric’s Paraphrase, the Almighty, pointing upwards, with Abraham , on the right genuflecting as he holds his staff, illustrating Genesis xv, 5: “Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars if thou be able to number them: and he said, “So shall thy seed be.”

This episode is the one referred to in the last verse of the Magnificat. The subject is more clearly represented on one of the panels of the bronze doors of St Zeno, Verona, which shows not only the Almighty and Abraham but also the semi-circle of the heavens with seventeen stars of various sizes.

18 Moses and the Burning Bush        Exodus iii-iv, 17
Moses is on the right of the scene, lifting his left foot to remove his shoe23. On the left is the Burning Bush in the middle of which is a battered representation of the Lord. “God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and he said draw not hither, put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place where on thou standest is holy ground.”

19 Moses strikes the Rock        Exodus xvii, 1-17
Moses is in the centre of the scene, with the rod in his right hand, striking the rock on the right; behind Moses is Aaron. The subject, in a similar composition appears in a drawing in the Aelfric Pentateuch (f. 95 v).

20 Moses receives the Law        Exodus xiv
At the top, appearing over the frame, is the Hand of God with the Ten Commandments. Moses is standing to the right, and it is just possible still to see that in the usual medieval manner he is shown with horns24. Behind him is the fence around the mount (Exodus xix, 12). On the left of the roundel the sculpture is damaged and difficult to decipher; perhaps it is the worship of the Golden Calf, with the architectural feature at the bottom representing an altar.

21 Samson and the Lion        Judges xiv, 5-end
Samson is almost astride the lion’s back as he strains, elbows akimbo, to break the jaws of the lion. Bees swarmed in the carcase, “and out of the strong there came forth sweetness.”

This is one of the most popular of subjects for the Romanesque sculptor; it appears frequently in the west country, as for example on tympana at Stretton Sugwas and Highworth, and on bosses at Keynsham Abbey and Hailes Abbey. As a rule, the subject is to be interpreted as a pre-figuration of Christ’s conquest of death.

22 Samson and the Gates of Gaza        Judges xvi, 1-3
This subject is a symbol of Christ’s breaking down the Gates of Hell. Although no exactly comparable representation of the scene has been recognised——a similar pair of gateposts, with a bar, appears on the Bayeux Tapestry as a setting for a figure named Aelgivu—it is clear that the sculptor’s design is based directly on the Biblical text. “Then went Samson to Gaza and saw there an harlot and went in unto her. And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him, saying, In the morning we shall kill him. And Samson arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and (as the sculptor shows) the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders and carried them away . . . “. See illustration below.

Samson and the Gate of Gaza

Samson and the Gate of Gaza

23 Samson destroys the Temple        Judges xvi
The scene is damaged, but parts of the architecture can be recognised on the right: two arches, two round-headed windows and a piece of roof. At the top, parts of two figures survive, probably representing Philistines; below them is Samson. Only his feet and lower gown are at all well preserved, but comparison with a manuscript illustration allows the suggestion that Samson is grasping the left hand column, rather than pushing two pillars asunder, as in several representations of the scene.

It has been pointed out that the manuscript in which the comparable illustration appears, the Psalter of Odbert of St Bertin (Boulogne Bib. Pub. MS. 20, dating from c. 1000) can be connected with Malmesbury since Bishop Heremann of Ramsbury who spent some time at St Bertin also took an especial interest in Malmesbury Abbey and built a tower there.

24 David rescues the Lamb        I Samuel xvii
Although badly eroded it is still possible to make out the main design of the scene. The lion is at the bottom of the scene, with the lamb in his mouth (towards the right). Above, David is shown kneeling over the lion’s rear quarters, pulling the lion’s mane and reaching towards the lamb. The best parallel for the composition is a line drawing in a mid—eleventh century psalter from Winchester (British Museum Cotton Tiberius C vi).

25 David kills Goliath        I Samuel xvii
David is the smaller figure on the left of the roundel, with his sling raised behind him. Opposite is the figure of the giant, with a sword or staff, and so tall that his feet protrude well below the frame of the scene.

Outer order of arch

26 The Annunciation
The angel is on the left, with one wing extending beyond the border; the Madonna, on the right, is enthroned and seems to be holding a book. Her right hand is damaged and her head missing. This is the normal scene with which to begin a Nativity cycle. There are parallels in Anglo-Saxon manuscript illustrations. See illustration below.

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

27 The Nativity
In the manner of Anglo-Saxon illuminations, the bed in which the Virgin rests is set diagonally across the scene. The Madonna’s head and shoulders extend beyond the frame on the right, while a huge bed cover hangs in folds across the centre of the composition. The crib is shown above the bed beneath a damaged arch which may represent either architecture or the entry to the cave. To the left, also damaged, is the robed figure of Joseph. Below the Virgin’s bed, on the left, is a damaged area which was perhaps once a crouching midwife.

28 Annunciation to the Shepherds
Although the upper parts of the three figures are missing, comparison with two Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, the Gospels of St Bertin (Boulogne MS. II) and the Missal of Robert of Jumieges (Rouen Y. 6) supports the identification of the subject, as does its position in the cycle as a whole. Part of the wing of the angel survives on the left, overlapping the frame of the scene; two shepherds are on the right.

29 The Three Magi
Three magi are shown, walking across the scene; the front figure, on the right, is the best preserved and is clearly the leader of the group, not a Madonna and Child.

Where the three magi are shown alone, walking, as here at Malmesbury or in glass in one of the west lancets at Chartres, the scene can be interpreted as the journey of the Magi, either towards Bethlehem or their departure. The story of the Magi is common in Romanesque and Gothic art and underwent many variations and elaborations. One important local cycle is on the north door of the Lady Chapel at Glastonbury. Where three walking kings are shown with a Madonna also, as on the Norman tympanum at Bishopsteignton, South Devon, the whole composition reads as an Adoration of the Magi; but the Malmesbury sculptors did not include this subject in their cycle.

30 Presentation in the Temple
Three figures are shown. Joseph is on the left with his feet well below the lower border of the scene where it is narrowest; in the centre, where the scene is full height, is the Madonna with the Child. On the right where the frame narrows again is a piece of architecture.

No exact parallel has been discovered for this scene, and Galbraith therefore proposed that the scene might better be called the Journey to the Temple, especially since Joseph is not shown carrying doves, there is no altar, nor is Simeon included.

31 Baptism of Christ
This scene and the next, at the top of the outer order, are now very badly eroded. On the left is St John Baptist; his head, now missing, overlapped the frame of the scene. His right hand is stretched out to spill the water over the figure of Christ standing in a circle(?) of waves representing the river Jordan.

32 Entry into Jerusalem
The outlines of the composition can still be deciphered: Christ on the Donkey riding towards the Gate of Jerusalem on the right.

33 Last Supper
In the centre is the haloed figure of Christ; the apostles are to either side of him, the six on the right being the better preserved. All the figures seem to be behind the table with a curved top, a feature found also in an illustration in Aelfric’s Paraphrase (British Museum Cotton Claudius B iv).

34 Crucifixion

This scene is simpler and easier to decipher. One unusual detail is that the Virgin is holding a book, a feature found also in two late Saxon manuscripts, the Weingarten Gospels (New York, Pierpont Morgan MS. 709) and the Arundel Psalter (British Museum Arundel MS. 60), the latter of which is from Winchester and perhaps also the former.

35 Entombment
In the background, like an inverted W, is an architectural setting like the zig-zag of late Romanesque. Joseph and Nicodemus are lowering Christ’s body into the tomb. Christ is completely shrouded, even his face; this mode of representing the dead body is found also in the illustrations of the Aelfric Paraphrase.

36 Resurrection
The scene is dominated by the figure of Christ, staff in hand. Behind (or below) him is the empty sarcophagus with its lid pushed diagonally aside.

No precise parallel has been identified, but similarly majestic figures of Christ appear in Late Saxon representations of such scenes as the Descent into Hell or the Second Coming. See illustration below.

The Resurrection

The Resurrection

37 Ascension
At the top of the scene, in a way first used by Anglo—Saxon artists, are shown the feet and skirts of the disappearing figure of Christ, surrounded by a wedge of stone which may be a halo of cloud or light.

Below are the apostles, some standing, and others, unusually, seated.

38 Pentecost
Though badly damaged, it is clear that the composition is like that of the previous scene; at the top in a wedge of cloud is the Dove of the Holy Spirit, flying down towards the Apostles below. Not only is the scene more intelligible when comparison is made with a drawing in the mid—eleventh century psalter (Cotton Tiberius C. vi), but comparison can also be made with the much larger groups of Apostles at either side of the inside of the porch. There are the same heads set tilted backwards, the same hands raised, open in gesticulation, similar rhythms of folds and the same lively motif of crossed legs.


1. See also Vetusta Monumenta V (1835) for fine engravings; the Wiltshire Magazine VIII (1864) includes articles on the abbey and on Malmesbury history and antiquities, as does Trans. Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society XVI (1891-2). T. Perkins: The Abbey Churches of Bath and Malmesbury (Bell, 1901) is by now seriously out of date.

2. See too O. Lehmann-Brockhaus: Lateinische Schriftquellen sur Kunst in England, Wales und Schottland 901-1307 (Munich, 1956) II, pp. 239-248.

3. M. R. James: Two Ancient English Scholars (Glasgow University, 1931).

4. The text of the letter is printed and discussed by Galbraith.

5. Bony: Gloucester et l’origine des voutes d’hemicycle gothique: Bulletin Monumental XCVIII (1939); see also J. Bony: French Influences on the Origin of English Gothic Architecture: Journal of the Courtauld and Warburg Institutes XII (1949).

6. G. Zarnecki: Transition in Romanesque Sculpture, in Acts of the XXth International Congress of the History of Art (Princeton, 1963) vol. I, p. 155.

7. Aubrey: Wiltshire: The Topographical Collections (J. E. Jackson, 1862), p. 256. For Aubrey, a convenient recent edition is in the Penguin English Library (ed. O. L. Dick, 1972). A clear engraving of the west door with details of the capitals is in Vetusta Monumenta V, pl. VII.

8. G. Zarnecki: Early Sculpture of Ely Cathedral (I958) pl. 82 shows a calendar from a Worcester (?) manuscript (Cambridge, St John’s College ms. B20) with a full scheme in roundels with1 similar material on the door posts of the Prior’s Door at Ely.

9. The standard study is M. Schapiro: The Romanesque Sculptures of Moissac, Art Bulletin XIII (1931).

10. G. Zarnecki: English Romanesque Sculpture, 2 vols. (1951-3); L. Stone; Sculpture in Britain: The Middle Ages (1953), p. 83 suggests that the capitals at Lullingstone “might very well be by a Saintonge sculptor.”

11. G. Zarnecki: Romanesque Sculpture at Lincoln Cathedral (n.d.); R. Salvini: Wiligelmo e le Origini della Scultura Romanica (Milan, 1956).

12. Full details and photographs in R. Crozet: L’Art Roman en Saintonge (Paris, 1971).

13. For a translation of the poem, see H. Isbell: The Last Poets of Imperial Rome (Penguin Classics, 1971); see also A. Katzenellenbogen: Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Medieval Art (1939, and paperback edition 1964). The Prudentius manuscript, and many of the other manuscripts to be mentioned later are discussed and illustrated in M. Rickert: Painting in Britain: The Middle Ages (1954).

14. G. Zarnecki: English Romanesque Sculpture vol. II (1953), pls. 95-8.

15. F. Wormald: English Drawings of the Twelfth Century (1962) No. 4, pl. 6b.

16. N. R. Ker: Medieval Libraries in Great Britain (2nd ed. 1964), p. 128.

17. cf. note 8.

18. M. R. James: Pictor in Carmine: Archaeologia 94 (1951), pp. 141-166.

19. M. M. Gauthier: Emaux du Moyen Age Occidental (Fribourg, 1972) colour plate opp. p. 158, Cat. No. 114, p. 362.

20. The north transept doorway of Lichfield Cathedral, with a Tree of Jesse and local saints set in oval medallions carved in three orders separated by bands of foliage seems to echo the Malmesbury arrangement; see J. Britton: The History and Antiquities of Lichfield Cathedral (1820), pl. V.

21. Illustrated by Saxl, fig. 48; Galbraith’s article reproduces 30 comparative illustrations.

22. G. Henderson: The Sources of the Genesis Cycle at St Savin sur Gartempe; nl. British Archaol. Soc. XXVI (1963); the same author’s Early Medieval (Pelican: Style and Civilisation, 1972) is a very useful study of aspects of the art during the period of Malmesbury Abbey’s greatness.

23. Galbraith, p. 46, seems to have misunderstood the composition.

24. Galbraith, p. 47, says that Moses holds a rod, a feature for which some Anglo-Saxon parallels are suggested.


Upper Part:


1 Creation of Adam
2 Creation of Eve
3 God’s Prohibition
4 The Fall
5 Adam and Eve Hiding
6 God calling to Adam and Eve
7 Expulsion of Adam and Eve
8 Angel gives spade and distaff
9 Adam and Eve labouring
10 Eve nursing Cain?
11 Sacrifice of Cain and Abel


12 God warns Noah
13 Noah builds Ark
14 Noah in Ark
15 Abraham offers Isaac
16 Abraham finds Ram
17 God shows the stars to Abraham
18 Moses and Burning Bush
19 Moses strikes Rock
20 Moses receives Law
21 Samson and Lion
22 Samson and Gate of Gaza
23 Samson destroys Temple
24 David rescues Lamb
25 David kills Goliath


26 Annuciation
27 Nativity
28 Annunciation to Shepherds
29 The Three Magi
30 Presentation in Temple
31 Baptism of Christ
32 Entry into Jerusalem
33 Last Supper
34 Crucifixion
35 Entombment
36 Resurrection
37 Ascension
38 Pentecost

Lower Parts

OUTER ORDER: A—H Virtues conquering Vices (Psychomachia)

INNER ORDERS; I-XXXII Zodiac and Labours, etc.


I Lost
II Lost
III Lost
IV Fishes (Pisces?)
V Seated figure with viol?
VI Dancer?
VII Two figures standing
VIII Angel


IX Seated figure?
X Lost
XI Lost
XII Seated figure
XIII Peacock
XIV Somersaulter
XV Two rams? (Zodiacal?)


XIX Lost
XX Lost
XXI Two figures
XXII Seated figure
XXIV Angel


XXV Lost
XXVIII Standing figure
XXX Seated figure?
XXXI Angel? XXXII Two figures?

Key to Subjects

Key to Subjects