Musée Saint-Raymond
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Sarcophagus


© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
This large sarcophagus’s basin was reused during the construction of the old church Saint-Michel-du-Touch, north of Toulouse.
The lid served as a lintel for the door opening up to the cemetery of the Counts of Toulouse, established in the center of the conventual complex in Daurade.
On the basin, the apostles surround Christ who occupies the central position. They have not yet been allocated the halo, the nimbus, which later appears behind their head as a sign of saintliness. Each figure is placed under an angular arc supported by cable columns. This is a representation of the Apostolic College, the twelve apostles to whom Christ transmits the Christian doctrine.
The characters’ clothing, the toga, and the surrounding architecture is reminiscent of both the Roman context of the beginnings of Christianity and the portico of the temple of Jerusalem where the apostles gathered to spread the Word of Christ. The church begins to develop these themes in mid-fourth century Rome. 
In the eighteenth century, the lid was thought to depict a scene of a palace where a man assassinated another man who is lying on a bed. The fan motif, located on top, would have been geese’s feet alluding to the Visigoth queen Ragnahild, known under the name “Queen Pedauque” or queen of the geese because she was fond of baths.
The story is funny, but the reality is quite different. The geese feet which frame the representation of a miracle of Christ (the resurrection by Christ of his cousin Lazarus or of the son of the widow from Nain), are only curtains, symbols of unveiled mysteries. On the far left, the Christ figure appears in a scene from the Marriage at Cana where he transformed water into wine. Likewise, he is recognizable on the right side in a scene of the Feeding the Multitude.
These two miracles are the evocation of the Eucharist, acts of thanksgiving during mass that commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the priest eats the bread and drinks the wine, symbols of the body and blood of Christ sacrificed for the salvation of man’s soul and to bring Christians eternal life after death.
We are quite far from the vivid interpretation made in the eighteenth century !

Marble Sarcophagus from Toulouse (Saint-Michel-du-Touch for the basin and the church in Daurade for the lid).
Late fourth or early fifth century.
Inv. Ra 809b and Ra 501.

Lu 491 fois

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