Musée Saint-Raymond
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Sarcophagus


© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
This front of a sarcophagus basin, discovered in the nineteenth century decorating the wall of a house in this neighborhood, probably originates from the necropolis in Saint-Sernin.

The sculpted characters are the oldest known images of Christians in Toulouse.

The sequencing of scenes comes from a tradition begun in Rome during the first half of the fourth century.
In the group on the left side, a seated man, depicted with the characteristics of a philosopher, receives two men who appear cultured holding a papyrus scroll. They present him with a child and woman, an orant, raising her hands to the sky in prayer. The orants symbolize piety in the Roman world as they fulfill their obligations toward the gods as well as men.

The Christians adapt this representation which notably becomes the personification of the soul of a deceased person.
The seated character is likely God himself or Saint Peter to whom Christ transmitted the Law.

© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
In the center, the Christ figure multiplies the loaves of bread held by the two apostles.
This miracle is a sign of the Eucharist and the sharing of the bread between Christ and his apostles the night before the Crucifixion.  Then Jesus heals a child born blind by placing mud on his eyes. Thus Christ opens the eyes of Christians teaching them to see the truth.

On the extreme right, there is a scene that may refer to one of two miracles : either Moses touching the rock of Horeb with his stick which causes a spring to immerge quenching the Jewish people’s thirst during their exile in the desert, or the apostle Peter in his prison cell in Rome causing a spring to gush forth allowing him to give water to his jailers and thus converting them into Christians.

The water flowing from the rock is also an allusion to baptism, the sacrament by which all individuals can be born into the spiritual life in the Christian religion.
The poignant moments of the life of believers are represented here from right to left: baptism, the Eucharist, and the deliverance of the soul which after death leaves the earthly body to enter the divine world.

Marble front of a sarcophagus basin discovered in Toulouse (necropolis at Saint-Sernin).
Fourth century.
Inv. Ra 506
Lu 485 fois

Tolosa's gold age | Chiragan | Necropolis