Prieuré de Serrabone

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Serrabone , in Catalan Serrabona ('good mountain'), is a former priory founded in 1082 in the French department of Pyrénées-Orientales ( Occitania region ) at the foot of the Massif du Canigou , about 40 kilometers southwest of Perpignan .

Together with the few remains of the settlement of the same name, the church is located in the municipality of the French village of Boule-d'Amont in the Massif des Aspres ('rocky') above the gorge of the Boulès river at an altitude of 600 meters.

Serrabone, although it was a priory, has always remained a parish , i.e. a village church. The former settlement of Serrabone should not be imagined as a village built in a closed construction, which the rugged, rocky landscape did not allow. Until forty years ago, when there was not even a road through the Boules Valley, only a network of mostly steep mule tracks connected the priory with the scattered farms of Serrabone and the surrounding villages.

The present church and the priory of Sainte-Marie de Serrabone, the full name since at least 1082, are best known for the famous gallery in the middle of the main nave, which is unique in the Romanesque art of Catalonia . The interpretation of her sculptures is still largely problematic. Today it appears as a platform supported by fourteen columns and pillars , twelve of which are made of marble and equipped with capitals and bases . Its construction is dated between 1130 and 1150.

Prieuré de Serrabone, from SW
Prieuré de Serrabone, from NO

Historical background

In the 9th and 10th centuries, the powerful Franconian empire founded by Charlemagne under his successors had disintegrated into several partial empires that were unable to protect the population from the attacks of the Vikings from the north, the Saracens from the south and the To protect equestrian peoples from the east. The result was great suffering.

In addition to this political turmoil, there were poor harvests due to the climate. The concern for daily bread determined people's everyday lives more than in other centuries. Bad medical care, high child mortality and epidemics rounded off the picture of this gloomy era.

The Last Judgment, illustration from the Très Riches Heures

The believers of that time saw their fate against the background of the Revelation of John (Apocalypse), the last book of the Bible . In this scripture, the end of the world and God's judgment are described in dark colors . Given the symbolic year 1000, people interpreted the terrible events of their time as the fulfillment of this prophecy . The end of the world was expected (Minne-Sève, p. 11). Because of this, people no longer thought it useful to build churches.

This changed suddenly when the expected end of the world did not occur. Shortly after the year 1000, building activity also began in Roussillon. Numerous monasteries were founded ( Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa , Saint-Martin-du-Canigou , Sainte-Eulalie-et-Sainte-Julie in Elne , Sainte-Marie in Arles-sur-Tech, etc.) because of a new religious enthusiasm not only in the south of France, but also in large parts of Europe.

The new perspective beyond the year 1000 released great energies. The new motivation was noticeable in many areas, not just in church building. The spread of the word of God came into focus again. This had not yet spread to all remote areas, including the Pyrenees.

The monasteries played an important role in this. The rural population admired the courage, perseverance and ingenuity of the monks when they wrested  their livelihood in an inaccessible and inhospitable area - as in Serrabone . It was precisely the monks who made a major contribution to the profound changes in the countryside between the 10th and 12th centuries. They carried out the development of new land, the deforestation of forests or the draining of swamps and thus created the conditions for arable farming . The charisma of the monasteries was great.

Building history

(Pp. 109–131) and (pp. 9–13)

The start of construction cannot be dated with certainty. It must be accepted before 1069 (first written mention). For the choice of the location, defense considerations were decisive: the selected rock ledge was only accessible from the north side and protected on the other sides by steep rock walls.

Before the monastery was founded , a parish church had existed for a few years , which had been a place of pilgrimage since 1069 at the latest , where some canons had already settled.

From this building, today's main nave with its pointed barrel vault has been preserved up to the transept arms , to which a choir apse was probably connected in the east . Excavations were carried out there in 1968 to investigate the original shape of the choir . However, no remains have been found, as the walls of that time were erected directly on the bedrock without foundations and were completely removed when the choir was demolished.

Remains of the wall of an originally three-storey convent building on the south side of the ship and at its western end, which was probably built together with it or shortly after it, have also been preserved - at least in part . P. 132 (floor plan dating)

Until the 12th century, the Aspre, including Serrabone, belonged to the county of Besalú , which stretched from the banks of the Fluvià to Perapertusès . This county bordered to the west on that of Cerdanya-Conflent (French: Cerdagne-Conflent) and to the east on the counties of Rosselló (French: Roussillon ) and Empúries, facing the sea . All these more or less sovereign areas had emerged from the reconquest offensives that took place in the 9th century against the areas occupied by the Arabs, the Reconquista . From a religious point of view, this period could only be understood as a very conflictual one. In the 11th century, starting from Rome, Gregorian reforms (1075-1085) began, which extended to the entire Christian West and manifested themselves in the ecclesiastical province of Narbonne mainly in the form of crisis situations. The problem of the communal life of the clergy was central to these debates, the other main points of which were the Nicolaitans and the excessive liberation tendencies from church ties. The Benedictine abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa which was relatively strong through the support of their counts, but finally one from the supervision Cluny Abbey originating abbot was assumed, is a good example of this crisis period of the monasteries, in the most glorious of the Catalan abbeys were reformed and incorporated into religious centers in Languedoc or Provence .

Against the background of a relative decline in traditional structures, the blossoming of a new order of Augustinian Canons should be seen. It was in this atmosphere, characterized by feudal pressure and reactions, that the Serrabona Priory was founded. The initiative for this foundation, which came about despite the resistance of the Bishop of Elna (French Elne ), seems to go back to the Vice Counts of Cerdanya-Conflent and the influential House of Cortsavi (French Corsavy).

Serrabone was the first example of the restoration of religious religious life by the Canons in the Diocese of Elne. The impetus for this did not come from the diocese, as in most cases, from the diocese, who was hostile to the reform, but from the local lay community Vice Count Raimund Bernard, his brother Bernard and the gentleman of Corsavi, Raimund Matfred. They decided to remove the election of the prior from the supervision of the diocesan bishop in order to guarantee the "freedom" of the young community. They threatened the bishop with the destruction of the premises already under construction and with the dissolution of the religious community. Bishop Raimund von Elne only reluctantly accepted access to his legal authority. Six clergy took part in the first election on March 3, 1082.

The founding deed, which is handed down as a later copy, celebrates this restoration of the monastic order and religiosity. She points to miracles that are said to have occurred on this occasion and quotes the words of Jesus (Mt 11: 5): "Through the power of the Almighty [...] the blind will be able to see again, the lame will be able to walk again and the deaf will be able to hear again" .

The priory soon had a large area of ​​activity.

The same transcript also tells us that during the first twenty years up to 1102 ten people died in the priory, including the first prior and five brothers, but also an itinerant preacher and four lay sisters , two of whom were on pilgrimage to Jerusalem .

The idea that first prevailed in Serrabona on the Iberian Peninsula with " regular canons " was based on the ideals of the Gospel . Their movement strove to acquire the monastic values ​​of community life, separated and regulated from the rest of the world, and believed that they had already found the solutions necessary for their practical implementation. In contrast to the bribery of some canons of the cathedral chapter , their attitude was characterized by the renunciation of personal property in favor of their community.

The everyday life of the Canon Regular was based on the following four principles of the Augustinian Rule :

  • the church, place of common prayer,
  • the chapter house , place of repentance and the definition of spiritual unity,
  • the refectory and dormitory , areas of exercising and keeping their vows .

In addition to largely adopting monastic values, the regulated Augustinian canons strengthened their pastoral duties, which set them apart from the monks.

St. James pilgrims, woodcut from 1568
Jacob's tomb, Santiago-de-Compostela

The pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain began towards the end of the 11th century . Its greatest heyday fell in the first half of the 12th century, when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims traveled south every year. The Way of St. James in France was formed from the four main routes Via Turonensis , Via Lemovicensis , Via Podiensis and Via Tolosana , accompanied by a network of numerous secondary routes. Numerous new churches, monasteries, hospices, hostels and cemeteries were built along these paths, and existing facilities were expanded to meet the new requirements. (P. 25) For a pilgrimage church, above all, large areas of movement were needed for the numerous pilgrims , such as the ambulatory and side aisles , galleries and as many chapels as possible for the presentation of relics and their veneration.

Like many other very important monasteries, Serrabone was located on a heavily frequented byway of the many pilgrimage routes of the Way of St. James, which were concentrated in France north of the Pyrenees and led to the few crossings to northern Spain. This byway was the "Chemin du Piemont", which reached from Salses via Perpignan at the northern foot of the Pyrenees, mostly in valley bottoms such as that of the Têt, to the northern end of the mountain range.

The extensive expansion work on the priory, together with the extremely valuable marble sculpture, is largely due to the great willingness of the pilgrims to donate, who stayed in the convent buildings as well as in the church. At that time, the priory also owned numerous relics that were exhibited in the church for veneration. For periods of time without supervision, it could be locked away in a safe-like niche in the gable walls of the transept arms, the Martyrion .

The Serrabona Community had settled near the pre-existing church, which they soon had to enlarge. Extensive expansion work began between 1130 and 1140, such as the extension of the nave with a new choir apse and two transept arms, the addition of a north aisle , a bell tower and a south cloister gallery. The construction of the gallery is dated between 1130 and 1150. These changes, after their completion, led to a new consecration on October 25, 1151 of Artau, Bishop of Elne, together with Bernard, Bishop of Urgell, in the presence of the Abbots of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa , Arles sur Tech and numerous other guests. The dedication document states that the construction work was carried out by the Prior Petrus Bernardus with the support of the Serrabona residents and various dignitaries of the country. At that time the priory was already owned by other churches, the number of which later increased. They were all in the dioceses of Elne and Urgell.

From the second half of the 12th century to the end of the late Middle Ages, there is no document that could provide information about life in the priory after this work.

As the conflict over Aquitaine between England and France rose after the mid-12th century, pilgrimage declined and the wars of the 13th and 14th centuries brought a dramatic collapse. (P. 25) With this these sources of money dried up almost completely. The pilgrimage church of Serrabone had to limit itself to the income from the pilgrimages in the region.

For the 14th century he only gives a few documents that have been found which confirm a few occurrences. Without a doubt, the "conversio" (conversion to monasticism) had come to an end, as the monastery community no longer cultivated their lands themselves, but leased them. Lease contracts from the years 1354, 1363 and 1397 'are known.

Burial of bubonic plague victims in Tournai. Part of a miniature from the chronicles of Abbot Gilles Li Muisis (1272–1352), Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, MS 13076-77, f. 24v.

Signs of decline were already evident in the region towards the end of the 13th century. The rural priories, including that of Serrabone, played no part in the development of the cities. New religious orders, particularly mendicant orders , were established to meet the needs of modern society. The isolation in which the Aspre Priory was lost was only increased by the recurring pandemics since the great plague of 1348 . In the second half of the 14th century, the Serrabone area lost a third of its population.

Obviously the monastery seemed to be doing quite well. A document in his favor has come down to us, which is dated to 1397. The altarpiece of the Notre-Dame de Marinyans church, which dates from 1342 and is now in Serdinya, is thanks to the generosity of Bernard Palasc, the cameriere (cook) of Serrabone.

Initially, the tradition was maintained in Serrabone. The prior, including Camerarius , who took care of the financial management of the chapter , the sacristan who oversaw the furnishings of the church, the infirmarius (medical director of the sick department) and two or three other religious kept the monastery going, but piety was shaken . The common dormitory was given up and people slept in solitary cells, even in solitary houses, on a walled piece of land. Every now and then rumors of scandals became known, so that the church justice had to intervene. In 1413 the Infirmarius, brother Bernat Tallet, made a public confession of guilt and promised to throw out the woman with whom he lived in a house of the monastery. In 1413 the prior Bernat Joer was deposed by the bishop of the diocese of Elne 'because of "enormous crimes". In the same year the prior Colomer demanded that seven canons should always live in Serrabone. Maybe they tended not to want to stay there anymore. According to a "Fogatjement" (census) of 1424, the population decline in this place continued, so that it was finally almost completely depopulated towards the end of the 16th century. In 1358 there were nine households, in 1515 there were only two. The repeated plague had done its part.

In 1470, the Serrabone church bell was cast.

The decline continued rapidly in the 16th century. The prior Jean Salvetat no longer adhered to the residence obligation in 1535. After becoming a doctor of canon law, he settled in Perpignan and in 1533 conferred the title of Commendatar Abbot . Although he received the income, he did not have to worry about the monastery. The canons followed his example, distributing the income tied to their offices, but had only one goal in mind, to escape the wasteland. On July 18, 1564, they received official permission to leave the monastery "for a year".

In their favor, however, it must be mentioned that their life in the priory had not only become arduous, but now also dangerous. On the night of October 22, 1592, five hundred Huguenots attacked the neighboring Vinça and raged in the place for about four hours. From there they made the area unsafe and attacked Serrabone as well.

Clement VIII, mosaic around 1600

When Pope Clement VIII learned of the unstoppable collapse of the Augustinian order, he secularized all their priories in Roussillon in a bull in 1592. That of Serrabone just disappeared. On June 19, 1593 it was subordinated to the church council and the sacristy of the cathedral chapter of Solsona (Catalonia). (P. 129)

In 1597 the monastery was occupied again by the French.

When the last prior, Jaume Serra, died in 1612, the above mentioned subordination became final and the new owners took possession of their estate from Aspre. From now on the priory was led by a distant, rather indifferent head.

In 1630 the buildings were in such a dilapidated condition that an administrator appointed by the Elne chapter saw them as a ruin if the necessary repairs were not started immediately.

In 1636, the gallery of the cloister served as a shelter for the shepherds and their flocks when the weather was bad. The church itself also seems to have been abused for this purpose.

During the Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659) the property of Serrabone was confiscated by the French as "enemy property" and only returned in 1679, after the Peace of Nijmegen .

The chapter of Solsona, owner of the church and its income, as heir of the former priory, had to guarantee the material basis for the practice of the cult (including celebrating mass), which was carried out by a rector (pastor) who was not under the control of the diocese of Solsona .

A small agricultural property belonged to the property of the former monastery, which had to be ordered. An authorized representative was charged with leasing the whole thing. The signatory of the lease had to recognize the following clauses as binding: He was obliged to pay the priest the reading of two masses a week, the lamps that should "always be on", as well as repair work in the form of two days of masonry and two days a year Days of carpentry work. Since this tenant shared the building with the pastor and he tilled the land in the immediate vicinity of the church, it can be assumed that both lived on good terms.

In the 18th century one of the tenants was the pastor's own brother and from 1754 pastor and tenant were one and the same person.

The conversion of the church of Serrabone into a parish church resulted in profound structural changes, the exact circumstances of which have not been documented. In any case, all rooms that had a certain function and meaning within the monastery, such as the dormitory, the chapter house and others, had to be adapted to the new uses, whereby agriculture certainly played a role. The status of a parish enabled the “public”, made up of the Serrabones inhabitants, to maintain closer relations with the building, which was the center of village life. That was where you entered social life, but there you were also buried. Meetings and the election of consuls (term for local officials in southern France, since 1125) were held in the church, as were the celebrations and amusements that took place at the foot of the bell tower.

In 1782, as in so many other churches in the area, a baroque altarpiece was built in the choir apse . It was commissioned from Patrici Negra, who came from a Perpignan family of sculptors.

From 1789, traces of severe weathering began to appear in the building. A wall had to be erected on the gallery to support the vault, thus dividing the main nave.

The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789

During the French Revolution (1789 to 1799) the church was confiscated again. After the Concordat of 1801 it was restored to its original purpose and co-administered by the parish of Boule-d'Amont. Immediately a dispute broke out between the chapter of Solsona, which had been restored to its rights, and the parish of Serrabone, which refused to allow others to claim power over the church.

In 1819 the facade and the western part of the church collapsed. Then the remaining part was demarcated by inserting a wall. At that time the inner row of columns was removed from the cloister and replaced by a coarse wall that was supposed to protect the arcades. The columns were used to build a kind of retable in the main apse.

When on May 15, 1822, the church was incorporated into the neighboring parish of Boule-d'Amont by royal order, the new magistrate took up the claims again.

In 1830 the senior vicar of the diocese of Solsona tried to sell the Serrabone property, which corresponded to the land of the former priory, for 3000 francs. This gave the prefect the opportunity to ascertain that the church in which the parish priest from Boule-d'Amont had been massing for more than thirty years and where the department had had repairs carried out was not Solsona , but the parish of Boule-d ' Amont belonged. Incidentally, the church and cemetery were recorded in the land register as the property of the municipality.

Prosper Mérimée

Prosper visited Mérimée Serrabone in November 1834 , but was unable to appreciate the unique location or the marble gallery, which is what makes the building so famous today. (P. 130)

“My last excursion in the Perpignan area took me to the Serrabone Monastery, in the mountains, two miles from Ille. The place is barren and wild. The buildings that once belonged to the abbey are halfway up a bare mountain, above a narrow and deep valley that surrounds it on three sides. Wherever you look, you can only see dark, greenish slate rocks, between which some meager little bushes grow ... The buildings of the monastery are falling into ruins, and the church itself is in very bad shape. ”Regarding the marble columns, he said: “The style of the sculptures is reminiscent of the beginning of Byzantine art, but already far removed from Roman echoes and full of capricious excesses, otherwise without taste and without a sense of proportion. I don't think that this portico can be dated later than the end of the eleventh century. "

The appreciation on site was greater than that in Paris. The Chevalier de Basterot, architect of the department and at the same time inspector of the preservation of monuments, referred in a report to the minister of April 23, 1841, to the “importance and beauty of Serabonne” and considers it “absolutely necessary for the preservation of the building to be removed from the to free the dilapidated outbuildings that had been built onto the church and that conceal the architecturally most beautiful part of it ”. And he further complained that "these houses filled with earth and rubble stored so much moisture that it was actually worth preserving with the greatest care".

Prieuré de Serrabone, graphic 19th century

Towards the end of the 19th century, the ownership structure had still not been finally clarified. On December 24, 1894, the notary Trullès from Ille-sur-Têt bought the monastery from the Chapter of Solsona and immediately offered it to the community of Boule-d'Amont. However, this refused the donation because she considered herself to be the owner of the building. With that the legal obstacles were overcome. Now, with the approval of Maître Trulle, the Office for the Preservation of Monuments could begin with the restoration.

In 1906 the dilapidated houses that were hindering the preservation of the church were demolished and windows were installed.

In 1917, the generous patron Henri Jonquères d'Oriola bought the Serrabone buildings. He immediately provided the necessary funds to continue the renovation work. In particular, the roof of the bell tower had to be renewed.

However, the decisive work could only be carried out after the Second World War. Planning and management were in the hands of Sylvain Stym-Popper, the architect of the Office for Monument Preservation. In 1966 he restored the wooden vault that had once covered the cloister to stabilize its south wall, which was in danger of collapsing. He then tried to restore the church to its original dimensions by rebuilding the destroyed facade and the western section of the ship. However, they did not restore the west portal. P. 131

As the property of the Pyrenees-Orientales department, the former Serrabone priory has for several years been the subject of measures and initiatives aimed at increasing the appreciation and animation of cultural events.


Dimensions and shape (floor plan)

Prieuré de Serrabone, floor plan, hand sketch

Dimensions (approx), mainly taken from the floor plan and extrapolated:

  • Total length, facade to choir apse: 32.40 m
  • Width of the main nave: 7.80 to 10.30 m
  • Total width (at the height of the transept gable): 17.30 m
  • Width transept arms 7.60 m
  • Width (at the height of the aisle and the cloister):! 7.00 to 17.50 m
  • Extension of the bell tower: 6.50 × 6.70 m
  • Dimensions of the chapter house: 6.40 × 11.90 m
  • Template choir apse: 3.40 m
  • Tower height in First (estimated): 25 to 26 m
  • Total length of the main nave (without apse): 26.90 m
  • Length of north aisle; 13.80 m
  • Length of the cloister: 15.00 m
  • Width of the main nave: 5.10 to 5.50 m
  • Width aisle: 3.00 m
  • Width of the cloister: 3.50 m
  • Transept arms: 4.50 × 4.20 m
  • Chapter house: 4.50 × 10.60 m
  • Gallery: 4.70 × 5.70 m
  • Height of main nave: 10.70 m
  • Height of aisle: 5.40 m

Construction stages

(P. 132) (floor plan dating)

1st construction phase

The first construction phase is the original church, which is now the largest part of the current main nave. Its emergence coincided with the establishment of the Augustinian priory of Sainte-Marie de Serrabona in the 11th century. There is no evidence of the extent of its original choir apse. Excavations to find this did not bring any results, as the apse, which was erected directly on the bedrock, was demolished without leaving any remains. The rather narrow main nave stands on an irregular floor plan, which is covered by a stone vault in the form of a pointed barrel. This vault was probably planned from the start, which can be guessed by the considerable thickness of the longitudinal walls. The daylight first fell through three windows with their walls widened on both sides in the south wall. One of them still exists today, the other two can still be seen above the pent roof connection of the cloister gallery. However, they were locked when they were built. They were replaced by two roughly identical window openings, which are, however, shifted further upwards over the gallery at the height of the vaulting of the central nave. Such windows were originally also on the north side, but they were bricked up when the aisle was connected. You first entered the church through two portals. One of them opened narrow and low in the south wall, without any architectural decoration. When the gallery was erected, it had to be closed. The second portal, the main portal, was once in the axis of the western facade. More recent restorations have revealed remains of it, such as the door sill, the side posts and fragments of the arch. The portal was bricked up by one of the last tenants of the property, who then preferred to get into the destroyed church via a breach in the wall next to it.

Today's gallery from the 12th century had a predecessor in the first construction phase. (P. 154) The canons originally took their places on a vault-supported gallery, whose anchoring in the masonry can still be seen at the western end of the main nave. In doing so, they followed a custom that was widespread in southern countries and was documented early on in Catalonia. A significant example of this has been preserved with the double gallery in the St-Pierre-et-St-Paul de Maguelone cathedral . In the Spanish countries this tradition was to be continued throughout the Middle Ages as “coro alto”. The construction in Serrabone, which was still quite simple, was probably similar to the church in Séquerre, which dates from the second half of the 12th century. It seems to have been reached through a door in the south wall, from one of the convent rooms on the upper floor of the extension at the time. With the construction of the new gallery and the demolition of the old one, this doorway was walled up.

From the floor plan of the building it can be seen that during this first phase of construction a strong wall was built onto the south wall at a right angle to it, which was probably one of the first convent rooms. Today's reconstructions and incomplete remains show that there were three large rooms arranged one above the other, perhaps the chapter house on the upper floor, the refectory on the ground floor and the dormitory in the basement . Due to its location above the steep slope, the basement is still largely above the surface of the terrain, its south wall even protrudes entirely from the steep terrain.

2nd construction phase

The second construction phase represents the extensive expansion of the first section, which was built in the first half of the 12th century. The church space itself was significantly enlarged in the east and north, by extending the main nave in the same elevation as the main nave and ending with a generous semicircular choir apse, which is covered by a semi-dome-shaped dome. The main nave extension is flanked on both sides by a transept arm, which is covered by a semicircular transverse barrel, the apex of which remains under the vault of the ship. In the north walls, semicircular apsidioles open with semicircular domes . A nearly square bell tower was added to the north wall of the main nave shortly before the western end. A narrow aisle has been inserted between this and the northern arm of the transept, which is covered by a wooden vault in the form of a half-pointed barrel. The cloister gallery corresponds to this on the south side.

The masonry of the second construction phase consists of slate from the region, like that of the first, but it is carried out much more carefully than the older components. It is made up of beautifully hewn stone blocks, which are particularly large in the lower areas.

The second construction phase also includes the construction of today's gallery after the original gallery was demolished.

Outward appearance

The exterior of the preserved, partially reconstructed structure of the Priory of Saint-Marie de Serrabone appears rather unadorned at first glance. This is mainly due to the predominantly dark colors of the masonry made from the native slate. However, one soon realizes that it is an extremely careful construction method, with meticulously assembled blocks of impeccable, almost “luxurious” perfection. The many small square holes in the walls, with a cross-section of about 20 × 20 centimeters, several mostly at the same height, which come from the wooden scaffolding, are striking. They were probably not locked because they wanted to be used for later armament.

The esplanade , onto which the access road leads, is nothing more than the former village square of the municipality of Serrabone. This parish, which was annexed to Boule-d'Amont at the beginning of the 19th century, was and is not a really coherent village, but rather an area with widely scattered courtyards, for which the priory fulfilled the function of the parish church. The cemetery, which formerly extended to the bell tower and thus included the north portal of the church, has been in use for at least nine hundred years.

If you go to the southwest past the bell tower, you will soon see a general view of the facade and at the same time get a picture of the basic structure of the monastery. The Serrabone Priory consists of a single continuous building, almost in the shape of a large rectangle. Here all traditional elements of a monastery are integrated in a compact form. The cloister is located on the south side of the priory church. For reasons of space it is limited to a single gallery and takes the place of the south aisle of the church. For the same reasons, other common rooms of the monastery, such as the chapter house, refectory and dormitory, were arranged one above the other and connected to the south wall of the nave opposite the bell tower.

The south side of the cloister gallery is taken up by a green, rectangular terrace.

A particularly surprising sight is seen from a certain distance from the southwest, from where Serrabone towers like a pyramid with its walls and roofs (see title photo).

Serrabone, facade


The facade of the church is now broken only by a large and slender, arched opening, which generously allows the golden sunlight of the late afternoon sun to penetrate the nave. The former main portal was walled up flush with the surface without its former ashlar surround.

Main nave

The gable wall of the facade is surmounted by the gable roof of the main aisle adjoining behind it with gray slate roofing at an angle of about 45 degrees by about one meter, tapering up to about 60 centimeters. The second gable wall of the main nave is at its eastern end as an extension of the east walls of the transept arms. A continuous row of approximately eight inches high vertical stone slabs rises above the ridge. The lower rows of the slate roofing protrude slightly over a wide cantilevered cornice, the visible side of which consists of a wide hollow.

Serrabone, bell tower from NW

Bell tower

The bell tower on the north side next to the facade impresses with its weighty appearance on an almost square floor plan. Its height is roughly four times its width. Most of it was built in the 12th century. The carefully cut stone in evenly layered masonry suggest three different work phases. The upper section of the tower with its eight rectangular sound arcades comes from an unspecified later construction phase. Just below the large openings, a smaller rectangular opening is cut out in each tower side, axially aligned and flanked by small square openings. Outside in front of these openings there were probably wooden bay windows that served to defend the building. At about the level of the eaves of the main nave, a narrow loopholes are embedded on the north and west sides, each centered exactly. On the north side there is a large, square stone with a circular hole below. On the west side, near the corner of the facade, there was a round-arched doorway, which has been bricked up in modern times. On the east side there was an opening above the aisle roof through which one could get from the tower to the roof. This came from the time when Wehrattiken had been built up over the eaves of the aisle to defend the priory , possibly in the 14th century. Old photos from this side still show the longitudinal walls of the aisle, which were raised for this purpose.

The tower is covered by a 45 degree pitched roof, the ridge of which is oriented from west to east. Its gable walls protrude about a foot above the roof. The eaves consist of almost half a meter cantilevered rafters on which a wooden formwork supports the slate covering, which protrudes slightly at the lower end.

North portal


The aisle between the north arm of the transept and the bell tower is covered by a pent roof in the slope of the main nave roof, the ridge of which is about two meters below the eaves. The eaves of the aisle is a variant of that of the main aisle. The eaves cornice with a wide fillet is raised a short piece vertically to the slightly protruding edge of the lower row of slates.

North portal

The round arched north portal of the church is not quite in the middle of the aisle. Its walls are three-tiered on the sides and top, made of the same slate material as the adjoining masonry. The outer Keilsteinbogen cuts a little into the hollow profile of the eaves cornice, which is slightly bulged there in the shape of a segmental arch. The inner edges of the wedge stones are decorated with a narrow groove. The following two sharp-edged arches are not made of wedge stones, but of larger, curved blocks of stone. The middle arch is decorated with a tooth frieze on its inner edge. The three vertical, sharp-edged setbacks on the portal sides correspond to those of the arches, but remain without decoration. At the level of the arches, a very narrow transom profile runs across all the steps and capitals, from the inner door reveals to the outer sides of the outer wedge arch. The arch of the door remains open, without a tympanum . An archivolt made of light beige marble is set in the external recesses of the portal. The capitals are made of pink marble. (see section "Sculpture north portal")

Serrabone, view from NO

In the south wall of the main nave there is a rectangular window about one meter high above the pent roof ridge, roughly opposite the north portal.

North transept arm

The gable wall of the north transept arm runs flush with the surface and as an extension of the aisle wall. The upper sides run parallel to their gable roofs, which are about one meter lower, with their ridge touching just below the eaves of the main nave. The eaves of the transept arms are designed like those of the main nave. On the west side the eaves ends at about half-pitch roof height and goes into a throat through which connects the adjoining roof surfaces with each rise obliquely. The north arm of the transept only has a small slit-like window in the smooth east wall, which illuminates the apsidiole that is only present on the inside.

Serrabone, choir head of O

Choir apse

The width of the choir apse, which is semicircular in plan, indented by around five centimeters in relation to the longitudinal walls of the main nave. The eaves of the main nave merge exactly into those of the choir apse. Under the eaves cornice in the form of a wide hollow there is an additional coarse tooth frieze decor with an angular profile underneath, which is supported on a series of cantilever consoles, the visible sides of which are rounded. The special effort of the stonemasons should be noted here, not only with the round eaves, but with every stone of the curved wall, the outer curve and also the inner one had to be precisely and carefully transferred to the stone blocks by hammering. In the upper half of the apse there is a slit-like, arched window, the walls of which are considerably enlarged on the sides and above by means of strong wall offsets and it looks like a normal window. The apse is covered by a half-conical roof, which leans against the east gable wall of the nave, which clearly towers above the roof. Both have the same tendencies. Just above the ridge of the conical roof there is a small rectangular window.

Serrabone, south transept arm of SW

South transept arm

The southern arm of the transept is designed almost in the same way as the northern one. The most important difference is a slot-shaped window in the upper area of ​​the gable wall. Mention should also be made here of the necessary, deeper-reaching underpinnings for the walls in this area, which could no longer stand there directly on building ground suitable for foundation.

Convent building


The south-facing gallery served the canons as a cloister and at the same time as a parlatorium . It is connected to the south arm of the transept by a small round arched Romanesque portal. The height difference between the floors of the transept and the gallery is overcome with a four-step staircase. Another portal of the same style used to lead directly into the nave. This portal was broken right next to the east end of the gallery and replaced a portal from the 11th century, which had become impassable after the gallery was built and was then walled up. This portal is a window today. The former difference staircase has been removed. Right next to this window there is an ogival wall niche, the background of which is decorated with remains of a colored fresco.

Serrabone, cloister gallery by SO

The entire length of the cloister gallery opens south over this courtyard onto the narrow meandering ravine of the Boule . Three massive, unadorned pillars divide the south wall into three sections, the two outer ones are somewhat narrower than the inner ones. The pillars stand on a parapet of the same width, a good half a meter high, which leaves a passage at the eastern end for descending via a staircase into the courtyard. The entire width of the outer sections is spanned by wedge arches that stand on strong transom profiles of the pillars and walls. These outer arcades were originally open to the floor of the gallery. Presumably it was possible to get into the courtyard via it, which originally might have been sloped towards the gallery. The subsequent walling of a retaining wall in front of the gallery wall up to the level of the floor indicates that the floor of the courtyard was once lower there.

This retaining wall has an interesting wall bond. Flat quarry stones are placed in layers upright on top of one another, one layer is inclined slightly to the right, the next layer to the left, and so on. In this context, it is interesting that on the outside above the western arcade in the wall of the gallery an inclined groove is carved, which indicates that there was a pent roof in front of the free-standing east wall of the three-storey convent wing, the verge of which connected to this groove. Perhaps this roofing should one day allow weather-protected access from the gallery to the hall in the basement.

The two central pillar intervals are each divided into three arcades, the outer wedge arches of which are on the outside of the pillars' transom profiles, the others each stand together on two marble columns placed one behind the other, the sculpted capitals of which are covered in pairs with profiled, expansive slate slabs. These are slightly thicker on the inside than on the outside. Their profiled round bases stand individually on angular plinths, which are similar to those of the north portal. (For more details, see the section on sculpture) The front sides of the wedge arches are strongly graduated along the arches.

Serrabone, cloister gallery, wall bond

A two-tier cantilever cornice extends over the entire length of the gallery above the outer apexes of all the wedge arches. The lower step has an almost square cross-section and is supported at larger intervals by inwardly rounded cantilever brackets. The upper one protrudes almost twice as far and its beveled visible edge is designed as a wide hollow. On this cornice stands the wooden vault with the cross-section of half a pointed barrel that leans with its apex on the south wall of the ship.

Serrabone, cloister gallery after W

The wedge-stone arches of the arcades are also formed on the outside of the gallery as on the inner one. The eaves are well above the apex of the arcade arches and consist of a two-tier eaves cornice. The lower step is almost square and is supported by cantilever brackets placed close together. Above it protrudes the second step, the beveled visible edge of which is designed as a wide fillet. The lower row of the slate roof protrudes above this. The pent roof of the gallery corresponds almost to that of the north aisle.

Chapter house, refectory, dormitory
Serrabone, main nave with gallery, by W

At the west end of the gallery, a staircase on the wall of the nave led up to a hall on the upper floor, probably the chapter house, of which only part of the former east wall with a rectangular door and of course the wall of the main nave, in which a high one is preserved located window of the ship is left open. This east wall is decorated on the inside with arcades made of roughly cut slate blocks. The rest of this room is now a viewing terrace from which one can enjoy the view over the deep valley of the torrent. Below the chapter house, at the level of the gallery, there is a second hall of the same size, perhaps once the refectory, the west and south walls of which were reconstructed in modern times. Today it is the reception room for visitors, which can be entered via a door, from the outside and from the gallery. In the basement there is the same hall, which can be reached via a short flight of stairs from the courtyard of the cloister, perhaps the former dormitory.



The floor plan of the structure of the church consists of the unusually long, at the same time very narrow and high main or central nave, the slender north aisle, which corresponds to the cloister gallery on the south side, two transept arms, two transept chapels and the choir head.

Main nave

The main nave extends from the facade wall to the choir head. Its almost square section to the east is not to be regarded as a crossing , but merely as an extension of the ship with the same elevation. The width of the ship increases by 40 centimeters from the extension to the west. It is covered over its entire length by a pointed barrel vault. In the older part of the nave, the longitudinal walls merge into the vault without a caesura, whereas in the younger eastern section the vault approaches are marked by a profiled cornice.

Sarrabone, gallery, vault, central columns
Construction of the gallery

(Pp. 154–155)

Floor plan of the gallery, hand sketch
Serrabone, gallery, southern vault

The nave is divided roughly in the middle of the grand gallery (or grandstand) built in the older section, which replaced a modest predecessor from the early days of the monastery in front of the facade wall, a mighty masterpiece that is undoubtedly the finest example of artistic creation in marble sculpture in Roussillon represents in the 12th century. This new rectangular gallery leans against the south wall of the ship. In the north wall of the nave, two round arched arcade openings, each about 2.50 meters wide, with sharp-edged reveals are embedded. The gallery extends in an east-west direction over the eastern arcade and the slate pillar and finds additional support at the reveal edge and the pillar. The wide open west facade of the gallery, decorated with reliefs, crosses the south-west edge of the pillar. In the east, a rather slender, massive slate wall closes the vaulted area, which is only pierced in the middle by the narrow, arched arcade of a passage. Its wedge arch is decorated on the east side with bas-reliefs of repetitive plant motifs. Otherwise this side of the wall remains without any further decoration.

The platform of the gallery rests on six small, slightly rectangular groin vaults, which have characteristic features. At first glance, they appear to be ribbed vaults . The bulge-shaped “ribs” only serve as joint strips, which have no tectonic connections with the vault, and were obviously only installed from below after the load-bearing structure was completed. The undersides of the vaults made from rubble stones were originally plastered, making the vaults appear even more clearly as rib vaults. The “cross ribs” with round rod-shaped cross-sections also have no end strips or keystones. A similar construction can be found in the church of Coustouges, where, however, the "ribs" are embedded in the vault to a third of their cross-section. Both are examples of experiments with ridge vaults that have been made in south-west France since the second quarter of the 12th century, when the development of Gothic was already beginning in the Île-de-France .

Serrabone, stairs to gallery

On the south and east side, where the gallery meets the walls, the vault gussets lie on simple shield arches with sharp-edged cross-sections. On the west and north sides, where the gallery does not meet walls, there are double shield arches to reinforce these load-bearing structural members. Double sharp-edged shield arches can also be found on all the inside of the vault fields, where they meet. The arches supporting the vaults stand on five different marble columns. First five simple columns, two in the center (No. 7 and 10 - numbering see sketch - two on either side of the passage (No. 11 and 12) in the middle of the eastern wall, the fifth on the southern wall of the ship (No. 13). Then three double columns with twin capitals on which there are arcades, two of them on the west side (No. 3, 4, 8 and 9) of the gallery, the third in the middle of the north side (No. 5 and 6), plus two pilasters , at the corners of the west side. These have large carved capitals, of which the southern one is a monolith (No. 2), whereas the capital on the northern pilaster consists of two blocks, because here the marble decoration overlaps the slate pillar The arcade arches on the north-east and south-east corner stand on narrow, plain spars (Nos. 14 and 15). This complex disposition of the individual parts may not seem very fortunate, but it was due to the difficult conditions at this point in the church, where the E mpore takes into account. The same constraints also explain certain inconsistencies in the distribution of the sculptural decoration on the west facade, the side pilasters and fighters, as well as the eleven capitals and their fighter plates.

The two blind arcade niches on the east wall next to the round arched passage are each structured with two blind arcades barely half as high. Their wedge stone arches, decorated with a wide hollow, stand together on small pillars equipped with capitals and bases.

Serrabone, gallery, passage in the east wall

On the east side of the gallery there is a brick platform on the north wall of the ship, from which a narrow straight stone staircase leads up to the platform of the grandstand. The east wall ends at the top at the level of the platform with a strong cantilever cornice, the visible edge of which is designed as a wide hollow. This is supported by a number of cantilever brackets, the visible sides of which are decorated with a flower.

There are different interpretations of the original location of this gallery. Christiane Favre, author of an unpublished dissertation from the École du Louvre (1944) and Marcel Robin, former archivist of the Pyrénées-Orientales department, claimed that the small structure originally belonged to the Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa . They based their thesis on the irregularities of the construction shown above as well as some other awkwardnesses in detail. The gallery was later unprofessionally rebuilt in Serrabone. However, this hypothesis can no longer be sustained since it is known that a similar but larger gallery by the same artist stood in the church of Cuxa and that most of its components are still there.

One could, however, accept the thesis that the gallery was moved once, but that this must have happened within the church of Serrabone. According to one of the sources, the gallery was originally located further to the east, at the point where the first gallery of the church was. When the vault collapsed here (1819) and the gallery had to be protected, it was moved. (P. 159)

Serrabone, gallery, from side aisle

On the other hand, important details only make sense if the gallery has always been in its current location. As an example of this, the same source cites the double arches on the north side, which, like those to the west, are designed as openings to a nave, and not to a closed wall, as would have been at the location in the western area of ​​the ship. This is also the name of the capital on the north pilaster on the west side of the gallery, which with its two components was specially created for this location (No. 1). The fighter of the opposite pilaster is again sculpted in such a way that it grows together with the wall, with the leaves on one of the narrow sides leaning towards it (No. 2).

The lush sculpture of the west facade of the gallery alone makes a location at the west end of the ship seem very unlikely.

YES. Brutails explained the irregularities in the construction with the clumsiness of the local stonecutters. These could also be related to the special circumstances under which the Romanesque stonemasons of Roussillon had to work. It should be borne in mind that the sculptors of the time worked near the marble quarries, which were not in the vicinity of the construction site. They created and delivered the decorative elements to order that were generally intended for doors, windows, cloisters, and perhaps also for galleries. These were workpieces that were easy to transport and attach, such as marble slabs, parts of friezes, round bars, wedges, columns, capitals, bases and the like. This explains the limited number of models, their repetition and the monotony of their sequence. Accordingly, a conflict had to develop between the working conditions of “series production” and the compulsion to “custom-made”, which required such a heterogeneous structure as the church of Serrabone had become after its expansion in 1151.

Serrabone, gallery, west facade from side nave

If one continues to assume that the current location of the gallery was also the original, a number of consequences arise. By placing the canons in the middle of the nave, they formed the end of the liturgical choir and took on the role of a rood screen . Incidentally, that was the time when the first Romanesque rood screens appeared. Well-known is the reconstruction of the former rood screen of Ely Cathedral in Great Britain, which had the shape of a portico crossing the nave and was provided with a gallery and parapet. It had three arched portals, such as that of Serrabone. The rood screen from Vezzolano in Piedmont also had structures similar to the gallery from Serrabone, but with a shallower depth.

Precisely because of its spatial depth, the Serrabone gallery could accommodate the entire canon community, which probably hardly ever had a dozen members. It thus served as a monk choir according to local tradition.

It is also significant that the entire sculptural decoration of the gallery faces west and was therefore not intended for the canons but for the lay faithful. The iconography of the Christian idea of the battle against evil, the saving message of Christ and the Last Judgment illustrated should serve the instruction and edification of the community.

(For more details on the gallery, see the Sculpture section.)

The north side of the main nave has a medium-sized round arched window with flared walls just below the vault. On the south side there is such a window at about the same height at the western end of the ship. Two further windows on this side and at the same height in the middle area of ​​the nave were bricked up with the addition of the cloister gallery. In the same wall, immediately next to the east wall of the gallery, a round-arched former doorway is cut out, which has been converted into a glazed window. A little further to the east there is a small arched window that opens into the cloister gallery.

Serrabone, choir head from ship

In the axis of the west wall is the arcade niche of the former main portal, which was bricked up in modern times. Just a short distance above there begins a rather large arched window opening with flared walls.

Choir head

The choir head opens in the east wall of the nave, the floor plan of which initially consists of a very narrow choir bay, to which the somewhat narrower semicircle of the actual choir apse adjoins with a strong gradation. The outline of the choir bay and apse extends up to the height of the vault of the nave, which is marked by a cantilever cornice that is led around the yoke and the apse. The apse is covered by a barely sharpened semi-dome, the curve of which follows the curve of the choir bay in the same gradation, over which the eastern gable wall of the nave is raised a little higher. The result was a piece of wall surface, which is delimited at the bottom by the slightly pointed curve of the choir bay and at the top by the tall pointed barrel of the ship. A small rectangular window is cut out in the axis of this wall surface. A piece below the start of the apse's dome, a slender, arched window is cut out in its axis, the walls of which are widened at the sides and at the top. An archivolt made of white marble is set in a circumferential recess of the edge of the garment, with columns that are equipped with carved capitals, profiled warriors and bases on angular plinths. Your arch consists of a round profile, slightly thinner than the pillars. The right-hand capital shows lions facing each other, which can be compared with gallery capitals nos. 10 and 11. The left has four large acanthus leaves.

Serrabone, window choir apse
Transept arms

The two transept arms open up via simply stepped, only slightly pointed, round arched arcades in the side walls of the younger ship section. They are vaulted by slightly sharpened barrels oriented across the ship. Their vault approaches are marked by strong cantilever cornices, the visible sides of which are decorated with wide covings. Their ends facing the ship are led around the inner wedge arches of the gradation. The outer vertices of the second wedge arches are just below the vaults of the ship.

In the east walls of the transept arms, arched arcades open into the semicircular apsidioles of the transept chapels, which are covered with half domed domes. Their dome approaches are marked by strong, profiled cantilever cornices, which are led as semicircular arches with a little space around the rounded edges of the windows. The walls of the small, slit-like, arched windows are greatly expanded inward.

In the gable walls of the transept arms, smaller, deep niches are left out in the lower area, in which today mostly stone finds are exhibited behind glass, which were found during the restoration work. These were presumably storage places for relics or valuable props for the masses, which could be locked in them, the so-called martyria , which in Romanesque churches can usually be found in the crypt .

In the west wall of the north arm of the transept, a semicircular arcade opening is cut out, the width of which is slightly narrower than the width of the north aisle that begins behind it. The arcade has strong setbacks on both sides of the wall. Their arch approaches are marked by fighter profiles.

In the west wall of the southern arm of the transept there is a slender, arched doorway. Their reveals are strongly stepped inside and out. In the southern gable wall, a slender, arched window is cut out, the walls of which are strongly widened. This window contributes significantly to the exposure of the east nave and the choir.

North aisle

The north aisle extends between the north transept arm and the bell tower. It is vaulted by a wooden half-pointed barrel, the crown of which is leaning against the wall of the main nave. It is connected to the main nave and the transept with three rather large arched arcade openings. A slightly pointed arched doorway in the west wall opens up the bell tower and the ascent to the bell chamber. In the middle of the north wall of the side aisle, the arched opening of the north portal is cut out, the reveals of which are stepped outside and inside. It once opened directly onto the community cemetery. The high quality sculpture of its outer archivolt characterizes the special importance of this portal. (see section sculpture)

Serrabone, SW Convent Wing

Convention wing

From the floor plan of a spring it can be seen that at the western end of the south wall of the main nave, a wall was built across the nave on the first floor in the first construction phase in the second half of the 11th century, which was part of what was once a three-story, rather compact building.

ground floor

The ground floor was reconstructed in modern times by adding more parts of the outer walls to a building that contains a rather large rectangular hall, which today forms the reception room. The ground floor has two door openings, a rectangular one in the west wall, near the nave, the main entrance to the priory, and a round arched one in the east wall, which opens to the cloister gallery. A slot-like window is cut out in each of the three outer walls of the ground floor. The sources do not provide any information in what form it is covered. One source speaks of a "vaulted room" without further explanation. The refectory was probably located on the ground floor.


In this reconstruction of the ground floor, it was possible to adopt the layout of an existing basement (French: Souterraine). Today's site is only half the length of the wall just below the level of the ground floor on the west side and then drops steeply to the end of the wall and beyond. The south wall of the basement is entirely above ground and has two slit-like windows there. On the east wall of the basement, the area is about half the height of the storey. The downhill access stairs from the courtyard to the basement are correspondingly short. The sources do not provide any information about the form in which the basement is covered. The dormitory was probably housed in the rather dark basement.

Serrabone, east wall chapter house
First floor

From the upper floor, originally a hall with the floor plan of the floors below, only the largest part of the east wall is preserved. At its north end, it rises almost under the eaves of the ship and then falls down to its south end at two different inclines down to the height of the parapet, which today encloses the ceiling of the ground floor in the west and south, which thus becomes a viewing platform.

The inside of the east wall is divided by three of the formerly four round-arched blind arcades, of which the northern one is significantly narrower than the other two with the same apex height and contains a rectangular doorway with a bricked-up arched field. The door leads to the stairs that lead down to the gallery of the cloister. The arcade arches are not covered by wedge stones, but by larger curved, sharp-edged blocks of stone. Immediately above their outer apexes runs a projecting, single-profile cantilever cornice. The wall surface above recedes into that of the arcade niches.

In the southern arcade niche, a rectangular window is left open, wider than the other slit-like windows. In the north wall, which is also the south wall of the ship, a round-arched window is cut out in the middle of the room, which corresponds to the others in the ship. Its crown is about a meter below the eaves of the ship. This indicates that this convent wing was not built at the same time as the church, but rather shortly after its completion. The window then connected the ship to the chapter house and did not necessarily have to have been bricked up. In this wall a door is said to have opened up to the second construction phase, through which the monks could get to the first gallery.

The blind arcades indicate that the hall on the upper floor was possibly covered with a barrel vault, which was oriented transversely to the ship and stood up on the cantilever cornice. At the same time, the roof above would then have to have been a gable roof in the same direction. However, the east wall, which is still high above the cantilevered cornice, does not match this. It might also be conceivable that the hall could be covered with eight groin vaults on three free-standing columns. The raised east wall could perhaps indicate that there was still an attic for storage.

Cloister gallery

The only gallery of the cloister, which corresponds to a south aisle of the church, completes the convent wing in the second construction phase.

(The cloister gallery has already been comprehensively described in the section "Building / Exterior Appearance")

Other convent buildings were certainly built at the same time, but mostly later in the immediate vicinity of today's priory, probably in the vicinity or even in contact with the above-described convent wing, such as a:

Fraterie, storage cellar, kitchen, calefactorium (warming room), abbot's apartment, hospital room, also overnight rooms for pilgrims and others.

Especially in the 14th century, when staying in the community, for example in the dormitory, was largely given up, separate houses were built for the individual monks.

Artistic equipment


Although it is usually larger, the Collegiate and Parish Church of Serrabone hardly differs from other churches in the region, neither in its layout nor in the local building materials used. Nonetheless, the most beautiful and most imaginative ensemble of Romanesque sculpture from Roussillon is hidden beneath the austere exterior.

Sculpture north portal

(P. 153) and

Serrabone, north portal archivolt arch

The construction of the north portal has already been described in the section "Exterior appearance / aisle". The sculpture of the portal is essentially limited to the archivolt standing in the outer setback of the vestments . It consists of an arch made of a sturdy round rod, decorated with a bas-relief, which stands on two somewhat thicker columns, which are equipped with figuratively carved capitals, multi-profiled and decorated fighter plates, double-unequal-wide profiled bases and angular plinths. The plinths have small heads or masks on the gussets that remain on the top. The pillars and the arch are made of light beige marble, the capitals of pink to bright red marble. The latter are a kind of "bulge capitals" with motifs in bas-relief.

The bas-relief of the arched rod is divided into diamond-shaped " medallions " by decorative ribbons , which meander around them alternately . These mostly contain vegetable motifs such as rosettes, leaf fans, leaves, and even a lily motif that looks similar to the well-known Fleur de Lys . This decor is similar to the ones on columns in the apse of the Notre-Dame et Saint-Christophe de Saint-Christol d'Albion church in Provence.

Serrabone, north portal, capital no.1

Portal capital 1: Christ enthroned

The left capital is interpreted in the sources as Christ enthroned. He sits on the corner of the capital facing the viewer in a rather strong, squat figure, with only indicated arms, around the enormously large blessing hand and the book of life that he is holding in his left as much as space allows. He is dressed in a choir shirt and a stole that falls to his knees and is flanked by angels waving incense casks with chubby faces whose hairstyle is divided by a deep parting. Their bodies are each covered by crossed pairs of wings. In the upper background you can see another pair of crossed wings, which are decorated with a peacock eye.

The column shaft is separated from the capital by a ring in the form of a decorated round bar. The fully preserved fighter profile is decorated with plant motifs. A cover plate, which obviously belongs to the capital, is inserted between it and the capital sculpture, the visible edge of which is decorated with a string of pearls with drill holes.

A very similar capital can be found in the cloister of the Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa .

Serrabone, north portal, capital no.2

Portal Capital 2: Lion (s)

The right-hand capital shows in its corner in the middle the head of a lion facing the viewer with a long-haired mane and wide open mouth on a common front body with two forelegs. On both sides, behind the front body, the further body of the lion expands with two hind legs, the tail of which wraps around the body and has a tassel at the end . The ground on which the six lion legs stand shows a groove-shaped structure rising diagonally backwards. This is typical of the workshop that created Serrabone's sculptures.

The lion motif can be found in many ways throughout the priory's sculpture. The sources almost always speak of two lions with a common head. It also says: "Animals shown in pairs only have one head". Perhaps only a lion should be shown, which is completely visible from every direction of view.

The sculpture of the capital shows something else on both sides. Behind the body of the lion (s), two plant tendrils rise sideways and support the corners of the capitals with their spirally rolled ends. Between these there is a human head with younger features that support the fighter plate of the capital like atlases . Between the outer spirals and the rear of the lion there is still a head, but that of an animal, perhaps that of a young lion.

The lower end of the capital is circular and protrudes slightly on all sides compared to the column shaft. The formerly decorated fighter profile has been largely destroyed. A three-layer cover plate is inserted between this and the capital sculpture, the outline of which follows the contour of the upper edge of the capital.

Sculpture cloister gallery

The capitals of the cloister gallery are similar in structure and themes to those of the cloister of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa. Lions are particularly common, in different postures. They often stand on surfaces that have a groove-shaped structure that rises obliquely backwards. All these capitals are carved on four sides and close at the bottom with a circular ring made of a round rod, which is twisted in a spiral in individual cases.

These capitals seem to be divided into two groups of completely unequal artistic value. Those of the outer row of columns have a strongly archaic character, which manifests itself in rugged lines, a lower relief depth and a partially missing modeling. The features of the flat human masks are kept very simple, the backbone of the lions is a horizontal straight line and their manes are made up of squiggles. In contrast, the lively and picturesque capitals of the inner row are related in their artistic execution to the gallery, the highlight of Serrabone's sculpture. Although they were created by different artists, they are from the same period.

The two groups of capitals also differ in one special feature. The sculpture of the outer capitals ends on the top directly below the common but differently thick cover plate made of slate. On the other hand, the top of the sculpture of the inner capitals remains a little deeper, but then seems to have been lined with a slightly bevelled head plate made of the material of the capital, the visible edges of which are mainly decorated with vegetal, but sometimes remain unworked. In some cases, however, the central heads of the sculpture extend further up in front of this plate. These differences suggest that at least one of the two groups was not produced for this location. Perhaps this has something to do with the dismantling of the inner row of columns at the beginning of the 19th century, which was then temporarily used for the construction of a retable.

The capitals are numbered from west to east, first the inner one, followed by the outer one.

Serrabone, capitals No. 1 + 2

Capital No. 1 lions (inside):

The four corners of the capitals show outward-facing, slightly bent, strong lion heads with slightly open mouths and bared teeth, ready to bite. A straggly, partly curled, almost combed-looking mane covers the broad shoulders of the animal, from which small auricles protrude, with a bare forehead. On either side of the mane, the lion keeps its front legs pointing downwards. This common front body rises above the rear bodies of two lions, both of which are directed outwards, between whose legs a lion's tail with a tassel bends around. The four lions, each with two rear bodies, have six legs accordingly. As with atlases, the heads and shoulders of the lions seem to bear the burdens, which here consist of a slightly bevelled head plate, the outline of which follows the contour of the sculpture. There are no additional faces, masks or other decorations on this capital.

Serrabone, capitals No. 2 + 1

Capital No. 2 lions (outside):

This capital seems to imitate the two-sided capital No. 2 of the north portal on four sides, but in a rather clumsy execution. Two lions' bodies stand on each side of the capital in a resting posture on a total of six legs and unite in a common head, about halfway up on two opposite corners of the capital. The mane, which falls sideways over the shoulders, seems to be partially braided, with small round auricles peeking out from between. The eyes are wide open and the mouth bares its teeth. The lion's tails with tassels loop around the back of the body. One looks like a fleur de lys . Where the rear bodies meet, a predator head of almost the same size peeps out, also with bared teeth, but with larger and pointed ears. Approximately in the middle of the four lions' backs, two plant tendrils strive up sideways and curl in a spiral over the predator's heads. Somewhat bitter human masks peek out from between them. Various structures are reinforced with boreholes.

Serrabone, capitals No. 3 + 4

Chapter No. 3 Predators devouring prey:

Here the motif of predators devouring prey is recorded. As in Cuxa, it has been extremely simplified in that it is limited to the representations of huge predator heads placed at the four corners halfway up the capital, whose mouths are emphasized by cords and their brows by rows of pearls. Only two front legs of the tangled prey can be seen, which cling to the lower edge of the capital with their paws. A three-lobed leaf is inserted between the heads of the monsters, above which two plant tendrils again strive sideways and curl up in a spiral over the predator's heads. Human heads peek out from between them, with long beards and a somewhat piled-up long hairstyle that extends from the cover plate, which is also found here, to its upper edge.

Serrabone, capitals No. 4 + 3

Capital No. 4 Griffin (outside):

Erect eagles are depicted on the corners of this capital, with their fully spread wings reaching the center of the capital. Their squat-looking bodies are covered with scales that represent feathers. The elongated structures on the wings and between the legs are intended to suggest the long wing and tail feathers. The vertically stretched legs cling to the edge of the capital. Slender fans of leaves spread out behind their heads, almost all of which have been destroyed. Semicircular fan-shaped leaves peek out above the wings, above which two plant tendrils again strive sideways and curl up in a spiral over the predator's heads. Men's heads peek out from between them again, but without a beard.

Serrabone, capitals No. 5 + 6

Chapter No. 5 Lions and Lionesses (inside):

Under a delicate laurel garland on the edge of the cover plate, two lions and two lionesses share this capital, a whole animal on each side of the capital. The lions are shown here in the classic way, standing on all fours in a side view, each on the opposite capital pages. Their heads are just below the capitals, facing outwards. Their manes are parted and just above their shoulders. Small round auricles protrude from them. In the slightly open mouth you can see bared teeth and you think you can hear a grim rumble. The tail comes out between the hind legs and puts its tassel around the body. The significantly slimmer lionesses occupy the other two sides of the capital. Their back bodies stand erect on their hind legs, the tail between their legs like a lion. The whole front body of the wild cat is turned outwards and its head dips far down, the slightly open mouth seems to lick its paws, which are lined up next to those of the lion. Her mane in strands extends from just behind the auricles up the neck to the front of the back. All a very moving scene. Smaller free gussets above the animals are filled with rosettes.

Serrabone, capitals No. 6 + 5

Capital No. 6 acanthus leaves (outside)

The only predominantly vegetable-decorated capital is based on the motifs of acanthus leaves from Roman capitals. Broad leaves stand on the corners and reach up to about two thirds of the height of the capital. Each of the four leaves is divided vertically by a strong stalk . The leaf halves are finely structured like a fan, and their upwardly tapering ends roll up in a spiral. Similar structures appear between the leaves, which are closed horizontally by ribbons with twisted cords at the level of the spirals. In the upper third of the capital, motifs appear that are already familiar from previous capitals. Again, there are two plant tendrils that strive sideways upwards and curl up in a spiral shape over the previous leaf spirals. Human heads peek out from between them again. The delicate structures are highlighted by lined up drill holes.

Serrabone, capitals No. 7 + 8

Chapter No. 7: Lions (inside):

The posture of the lions of this capital bears certain similarities with those of capital No. 1. This is especially true of the common fore and head under the corners of the capitals, which rise above two separate abdomen with twisting tails. The position of the forelegs is different, as they meet in the course of the axis of the capital side and point upwards together. On the western side of the capital, these lower legs even seem to be tied together with ropes. Completely different, however, are the wings that grow sideways from the upper front legs above the joint and whose tips are guided past the back to the lion's mouth. Each lion seems to bite the tips of its two wings. A bearded and long-haired head of a man peeks out from between the lions' heads and over the front paws, reaching up to the top of the head plate, the visible edges of which are decorated with rows of rosettes. In the space below you want to see this man's long coat. There is also the view that this man grabs the animals' lower legs with his hands instead of the above-mentioned bondage.

Serrabone, capitals No. 8 + 7

Capital No. 8 Lions (outside):

This capital is almost an identical repetition of capital no. 2. The spiral-shaped ring at the lower end of the capital is different.

Sculpture gallery

The construction of the gallery and its vaults is described in the section “Interior / Construction of the gallery”.

Sculpture of the west facade of the gallery

(Pp. 155–156)

Serrabone, gallery, west facade

The west facade of the gallery, made entirely of marble, is the west-facing side of the double support structures of the platform, each made of three equally large semicircular archivolts, which rest on twin columns standing one behind the other and on shared sharp-edged pillars on the ship walls. The equipment of the columns and pillars is described in more detail in the following section "Pillar and column sculpture of the gallery".

Serrabone, gallery, west facade, south arcade

The sharp-edged arcade arches rounded on the top and bottom with slightly rectangular cross-sections stand with their ends on the transom plates above the capitals and consist of two short and three and four long arch segments with radial butt joints. The arches and their adjoining surfaces merge flush with the surface and are completely decorated with bas-reliefs , apart from individual cantilevered sculptures.

The front sides of the arches are decorated differently, they are bordered on the inside and outside by ribbons, the outer of which contains a spiral-shaped twisted cord, the outer is slightly scaled. The northern arch is evenly divided radially and decorated with four-petalled flowers of equal width. The middle arch is decorated with a serpentine bead ribbon, which alternately loops around slender monsters, some with the heads of lions, others with those of birds of prey. The southern arch is divided roughly like the northern one, in whose sections palmettes are inserted, which are individually enclosed by pearl ribbons. The arches are decorated with blossoming flowers.

Serrabone, gallery, west facade, central arcade

The gussets between the arcade arches and on the side of the outer arches show religious themes. To the far left of the northern arch, in two blind arcades, there is a six-winged angel, a seraph (Hebrew plural seraphim), with hands raised to the side of them and opened in a blessing. The remaining areas are filled with four-petalled flowers similar to those of the northern arch. A high relief protrudes under the right seraph in the form of a human head blowing into a horn raised to the side.

In the gusset to the right of the northern arch, two evangelist symbols can be seen in polygonal frames , namely the winged lion of Mark prancing on one hind leg and next to it the eagle of John . Both hold a book in one "hand" with the engravings MARCHUS and JOHANNES. Here too, plant motifs fill the remaining parts of the surface. Both stand on the high relief of a lion's head with a shaggy head of hair, round auricles and wide eyes. The lion's mouth is missing here, however.

Further to the right in the gusset between the central and southern archivolts, the Agnus Dei can be found on the left in a circular medallion in a right side view. It is reminiscent of the anatomy of a horse with a long-haired tail. With its left foreleg behind its back it is holding an upright Latin cross attached to a long pole . The background of the medallion is structured like rays. To the right of this, in a distorted arcade, stands the evangelist symbol of Matthew , a winged person with a hang-haired hairstyle, in the left a book without engraving, the right raised in a gesture of blessing. The lower body is covered with long, fanned folds of clothing. Both motifs stand on a head in high relief, which is similar to the one on the left. The remaining small areas are decorated with plants.

On the far right, next to the southern archivolt, there is only room for one motif. In an irregular arcade. The winged bull , the symbol of the evangelist Luke, stands upright on its hind legs . His front body with a horned head and long neck nestles sideways to the left in the curve of the arcade arch and turns the top of the head towards the viewer. Its front legs are stretched out against the arch of the archivolt. With his right hand he is holding a book without an engraving. The motif is again above the low relief of a head that resembles those of the left neighbor. The remaining parts of the area are decorated with plants.

The man and the bull are evidence of a somewhat clumsy execution that contrasts with the strong and subtle design of the two figures described above. Nothing is engraved on their books. This simpler technique was also used for the angels and the Lamb of God. Exactly cut marble slabs with blooming flowers fill the classrooms between the motifs.

Immediately above the outer apex of the arcature a cornice protrudes a few centimeters, which is supported by cantilever consoles at the same depth, which is supported by cantilever consoles as on the east side, but which here are carved with faces, alternating with plant and animal motifs. The distances between the consoles are different, which is due to the arched stones reaching under the cornice. The ribbon between the consoles is decorated with four-petalled flowers, similar to those on the northern archivolt arch.

The cornice consists essentially of a rough jagged frieze between two bas-relief friezes . On the lower one, a three-part strand of pearls meanders up and down between the narrow borders. from which spiral curls and fanned leaves develop. The upper one has a continuous groove, which is decorated with the well-known lined up four-petalled flowers.

The cornice is obviously the lower part of a former parapet that delimited the gallery to the west as a fall protection. The sources give no information about their dimensions and shape. The unaligned cornice panels that are loosely placed on the cornice today are probably only provisional there, but could well have been part of a higher parapet. Its lower half is decorated with a simple zigzag band. The upper one is again a hollow with lined up four-petalled flowers.

Behind the parapet in the northern half of the gallery rise three pillars, the heads of which are widened, which can be supplemented to form arcade arches. These are probably remnants of an arcature that once ran across the entire width of the nave, which was intended to emphasize the separation of the choir and lay area. This arcature could have served as a balustrade that would have made it unnecessary to raise the cornice.

Art enthusiasts also encounter the concept of sculpture as decor and filling element in northern Italy. The search for sources of inspiration or even direct models leads to Lombardy , where Romanesque art is also subject to the dictates of continuously repeated décor.

The chosen theme of theophany is not treated here according to the generally applicable rules, according to which the majestas domini usually takes the central position in a mandorla , which is flanked by the four evangelist symbols . On the facade of the gallery cherubim and seraphim keep the guard of honor. Because the available space on the spandrels of the archivolt arches is split up into some partial areas, this centralizing method of representation was dispensed with and a type of theophany that was no longer used everywhere with the exception of Italy, namely in the form of a "Veiled" theophany, with the lamb as a divine figure. A grouping of the animal symbols around the human representation of God was no longer necessary. So you could show the animals one after the other on the facade. Only the human symbol of Matthew is right next to the lamb. The lion and eagle form a small group in the north while the bull of Luke is completely isolated in the south. In order to give it a counterpart at the opposite end of the facade, the two cherubim were placed here. Only the turn of the four "living beings" shows their dependence on the lamb, which is shown here on a very small scale. A possible source for the entire position is the pulpit of San Ambrogio in Milan . The portal of this church could have been the inspiration for the idea of ​​the theophany, which focuses on the figure of the lamb.

Pillar and column sculpture in the gallery

The marble of these sculptures has predominantly strong colors, from dark red, through medium red, pink to pure white.

Pillars, pillars, fighters and bases

The smooth pillars have no widened bases or the like at their feet.

Almost all columns have smooth, circular shafts with slight entasis and stand on two-step profiled bases and individual sharp-edged, predominantly square plinths. The upper semicircular ring of the base hugs the shaft tightly. Underneath is a sharp, narrow groove and then a wide, sweeping, significantly thicker ring made of a three-quarter round profile, with a diameter that almost corresponds to the width of the plinth. In individual cases, another ring is inserted above the plinth, which appears to be woven from narrow ribbons. On each of the four corners of the plinths that are not covered by bases, there is a little lion's head with a torn mouth and protruding auricles.

The massive striker plates on the capitals have a square plan, except for the twin columns, where they are twice as long as the width. The top and section of the plate appears like a thinner plate, the vertical edges of which are smooth and clearly protrude from the upper outline of the capital. The sloping visible edges of the lower, higher panel section are rounded off as wide covings, which are decorated with two motifs already familiar from the west facade of the gallery. The first motif are the tendrils on the lower band of the cornice and the second are the four-petalled flowers from the northern arcade arch. There are, however, other motifs as well.

Capital sculpture of the gallery

(Pp. 156-158) and

The assignment of the numbering of the columns and pillars used here can be taken from the attached hand-drawn sketch in the section "Interior / Construction of the gallery".

Almost all column capitals have thin head plates under the striker plates that belong to the capital. These resemble those of the inner capitals of the cloister gallery. They reach under the fighters' corners in short pieces to their outer edges, but then step back behind them. Their vertical sides are mostly smoothed, but also decorated with plant-based flat sculpture. In the case of capitals with additional heads in the lateral capital axes, these come in front of the outer sides.

The column capitals are closed at the bottom with a ring made of half a round bar.

Pillar Capital No. 1: Centaur and Lion

On the north-western pillar capital, which is particularly beautifully designed, a long-bearded centaur stands opposite a lion of the same size on the south side . Both look tense, their heads pulled back a little, the tassel of their tails wrapped around their belly. A bearded man with a long hairstyle rises between them, whose stature is emphasized by a tight-fitting tunic. With his left hand he grips the lion's tongue, with his right an ear of the centaur. As a sign of submission, they both place one of their front paws on the man's shoulder. The man may be a trainer who went into the cage with the animals. Two more animals follow on the west side, and another animal on the east side that sticks out its broad tongue. In the backgrounds above, above all below the animals, there is plenty of plant-based sculpture, above all broadly diversified leaves, some with strings of pearls and curled leaf tips.

In this representation, their Babylonian origin was once again able to assert itself, starting from Gilgamesh and the oriental Hercules . Perhaps the victory of good over the forces of evil is symbolized here, or the rule of the word of God and of understanding.

Pillar capital No. 2: Hunting scene with centaur and deer

The south-western, less skilfully executed pillar capital is determined in a very special way by thinking in terms of symbols. On its north side, too, two four-legged friends face each other. On the left an archery bearded centaur with a lion's body aims with his arrow at the opposite deer, whose body has the same weight as his opponent, whose horned head is thrown backwards. He especially impresses with his strange Sassanid mane . A younger man in foot-length clothing peers out between the two animals. He is not assigned any substantial involvement in the scene. Here, too, a similar plant-based sculpture fills the backgrounds and spaces, here also the short capital pages.

Each of these beings emerge from complex and contradicting traditions, and their association is not free from ambiguity. The striving for a clear manner of representation gradually gained acceptance, after which it was hindered for a long time by over-abundant, even excessive decorations. After all, this motif here has a clearly moral value with humanistic implications. The deer can be compared to the believer on the way to salvation, while the Centaur, whose initially positive symbolic content has turned negative, has broken away from its origin in the zodiac and has become the image of the demonic hunter.

Column capital No. 3: Hell / loot devouring monsters

Serrabone, pillars No. 4 + 3

The capital is the left outer of the twin capitals of the central west facade. In a simple three-dimensional representation, four monsters clad the corners of the capital devour other animals, of which only the front paws hang out of their mouths. One of them spits a snake out of its open mouth, the intertwined body of which spreads out over the body of the capital. On both sides of the capital, the transformation of the monsters into lions with a circular body is shown, at the end of which there is a new one to devour more animal paws in a devilish cycle.

Column capital No. 4: Heaven / Archangel Michael

This capital stands directly behind the number 3. The already known victory of good over the forces of evil is resumed there by showing the battle of St. Michael with the devil. He is dressed in the same priestly robe as Christ and the apostles in Saint-Michel de Cuxa. This peculiarity alone would be enough to demonstrate the extensive stylistic correspondence between the two galleries. The somewhat compact-looking thick-lipped archangel is dressed in a sumptuously piped robe and holds a staff with an equal- armed cross at the top in his left hand . With his right hand he wields a lance with which he inflicts the death blow on the serpent of Satan that coils at his feet. Its wings spread out behind him. He is flanked by two long-bearded seraphim, they raise their hands in a gesture of blessing. Their faces belong to the type common in Serrabone, with their noses pressed flat and their lips narrow. On the fourth corner of the capital sits a monkey whose sneering grin seems to remind the viewer that evil is also watching under the angels' outspread wings. In other words, the forces of good will not defeat evil until the Last Judgment. This is conjured up on the west facade by the angel who blows the horn.

Serrabone, capitals No. 5 + 6

Column Capital No. 5: Three Stalls

The capital is the interior of the twin capitals in the north-facing wall opening to the aisle. Given the rigid social framework of a society based on inequality, the importance of this chapter is exemplary. At the first corner a noble man is depicted by his pearl crown, at the second a beardless monk with a tonsure, at the third a peasant whose shoulders are covered by a cloak.

The social morality of feudalism is presented at the last corner in the form of a screeching monkey: everyone should stay in his place, otherwise he threatens to trigger a scandal.

In the middle between these representations, very broad leaves grow upwards, the upper tips of which curl outward at about half the height of the capital. The free edges of the leaf are decorated with pearl ribbons. In the lower area the leaves have grown together and are covered by a rosette. The leaf surfaces are structured like a fan. Above the end of the leaf, a little head looks slightly sideways and is arranged in front of the vegetable-decorated edge of a thin cover plate.

Serrabone, capital no.7

Column Capital No. 6: Striding Lions

It stands outside the capital no. 5. A sequence of four lions striding to the right on the sides of the capital forms a very simple motif. Every animal has its own head and “only” one body with four legs. The heads are each under the capitals, their abdomen ends shortly from the head of the following animal. They have opened their mouths slightly and show their bared teeth. The mane falls in three broad strands over the neck almost down to the belly. The tail with a fanned tassel curls sideways over the rear part to the front.

The background here appears like an extension of the column shaft over the lower ring almost to the level of the lions' foreheads, which is closed off there by another ring. This "extension" is decorated with grooves that rise steeply upwards and are equally spaced. A zigzag pattern runs around the top ring. From this ring two plant tendrils rise diagonally outwards on each side, which curl up in a spiral shape under the capitals and above the lions' heads. A bearded man's head, including his shoulders, protrudes between the circles on each side of the capital, and is brought up to the top edge of the headstock of the capital. The little heads on the west, north and east sides of the capital are directed towards the north portal of the side aisle, which opens opposite, apparently to greet those entering.

Serrabone, capital no.7

Column capital No. 7: Lionesses facing towards the center

This is one of the two capitals in the center of the gallery. Its lower section is about a third as high as the entire capital. In it, a total of eight broad leaves grow out of the lower capital ring, which bend slightly outwards upwards, taper to a point and each form a small platform. The leaf surfaces are structured like a fan and have smooth edges.

On each of the sheets there is one of the eight lionesses on all fours and each takes up half a page of capital. They each turn in pairs at half the height of the capital towards the rear parts without touching. Their heads on extremely long necks turn over their backs to the rear where their slightly parted lips meet exactly in the capital axis. Your foreheads reach up to under the fighter plate. The head plate of the capital extends a short distance under the corners of the transom plate to the outer edges. Exactly below the front bodies and necks of the animals meet those of the neighboring capital side. The lionesses' manes run down the entire length of their necks and appear to be organized like a comb. Their tails curl on the outsides with their tassels under their belly. The background of the scenes is decorated with parallel grooves rising diagonally upwards.

Serrabone, capital no.8

Column capital No. 8: lions with two hind bodies

The capital is the right outer of the twin capitals of the central west facade. It shows great similarities with the capital No. 1 of the cloister gallery. Human heads with beards and long hair peek out from between the manes of the lions, their gaze directed towards the western area of ​​the ship. These people hold their hands folded in prayer in front of them. Two leaf tendrils with a fanned structure strive sideways upwards, the tips of which curl up over the lions' heads. The visible edges of the headstock are decorated with four-petalled flowers.

Serrabone, capitals nos. 98 + 9

Column Capital No. 9: Griffins

This stands behind the capital no. 8. On each corner there is an eagle with a bowed head similar to the neighboring lions and a crooked beak typical of raptors. Its claws grip the lower ring of the capital. Its body is covered by a scale-like plumage. It keeps its two wings pointing downwards in front of the body. The scales of the upper wing section merge into long wing feathers below. In the capital axis, the animals keep a little distance from one another. The background that can be seen in it is an extension of the column shaft and is decorated with a structure that rises in a spiral. This is closed with a leaf fan at about the height of the eagle's heads. Above the heads, tendrils that rise to the sides curl up again, between which a man's head without a beard looks out, whose long hairstyle reaches up to under the fighter plate. The head plate and its protruding edges remain without decoration.

Serrabone, capital no.10

Column capital No. 10: lions with wings and griffin heads

This is the second of the two capitals in the middle of the gallery. It shows strong similarities with the capital No. 7 of the cloister gallery. A major difference to this is that instead of the lion heads under the capitals, griffin heads with crooked beaks are shown here, which bite into the wing tips. Behind these, however, lion's manes are still preserved. The lack of human heads between the animals is also noticeable. The head plate comes out piece by piece in the center of the capital and at the corners and remains without decoration.

Column capital No. 11: lions with two bodies

It stands directly in front of the east wall of the gallery to the left of the central passage. The posture of the lions corresponds roughly to that on capital no. 8. However, here the head and the outward-reaching tendrils with the curling ends are missing. Immediately above the lion lies the head plate with flat decorated sides that protrude piece by piece at the corners and in the axes of the capital.

Serrabone, capital no.12

Column capital No. 12: kissing lions

This capital stands on the right side of the passage in the east wall. Here, on each side of the capital, there are two lions in a similar posture to the lionesses on capital No. 7, which also stand on broad leaves that are slightly outwardly curved and occupy the lower third of the capital. Their buttocks remain at a distance and their upwardly stretching necks below the corner of the capitals touch those on the adjacent side. Their upturned heads almost bump their foreheads against the fighter plate. Looking sideways, the head of a bearded man peeks out from between the lions' heads, his long-haired head touching the fighter's platform. His features reveal a weak smile, not fear at all. The head plate is almost completely covered, with the exception of short, smooth pieces on the corner of the capital. The deep-reaching backgrounds are again decorated with parallel grooves that rise at an angle. On one side is the unfinished depiction of a small coat of arms.

The lions with closed lips seem to caress the man with their tongue rather than threatening, which a source suspects.

Serrabone, capital no.13

Column capital No. 13: Lions, heavily twisted

The capital is in the middle of the gallery on the south wall of the nave, into which it is partially embedded. The portrayal seems to be the most confusing of all. On the right corner of the capital a lion stands on its front legs and stretches and twists its body over the front and the left side of the capital, where its rear legs protrude to the lower edge of the head plate. His tail winds between his legs and around the entire abdomen, from which the tassel dangles. The head of a second lion protrudes above the stretched body from under the left corner of the capital, the body of which can probably be seen on the right-hand side of the capital. The open mouths of the lions show bared teeth. The decorated headstock shows on the corners of the capitals and in the middle of the front. The backgrounds in the extension of the column shaft show steeply rising parallel grooves. Above the lion's two paws protruding upwards, you can see two balls, each with a hole drilled.

Pillars 14 and 15:

The two pillars at either end of the west side of the east wall do not have any capitals, but only battlement plates without decoration.

Bas-reliefs no. 16 and 17 on the reveals of the culvert of the east wall

Serrabone, relief no.16

The reliefs are located on the upper ends of the vertical reveals directly below the slightly protruding stones of the arches, each decorated with three of the well-known four-petalled flowers. They occupy the upright rectangular area of ​​the top reveal stone. These are framed by different widths with different decorations.

Serrabone, relief no.17

The northern relief shows two slender lions, which occupy the two halves of the rectangle, which on its vertical axis almost touch with the backs of the bodies and the mouths. This axis is emphasized by the background structures. The upward striving animals seem to cling to the vertical frame with all four paws and pull themselves upwards. Their heads have turned 180 degrees inwards and their open mouths show their bared teeth. The mane structures appear combed. Their tails with spread tassels protrude between their legs. Fan-like leaf structures spread out between the bodies. The side backgrounds are decorated with oblique parallel grooves.

The relief on the southern reveal shows the same vertical subdivision of the rectangle. Here the upward striving bodies of the lions stand opposite each other and touch on the axis of the rectangle with the vertically raised lower legs and paws of the front legs and on the ground with one paw each. Both hind legs stand on the ground and their hind legs touch the vertical edges of the rectangle. Their heads have turned 180 degrees outwards and are pointing upwards. The mane structures appear combed. Their tails wind around their backs and end in splayed tassels. Between the bodies, the axis is emphasized by a vertical branch with curled leaves. Other backgrounds are decorated with fan-like leaf structures.

Summary capital sculpture and its origin

(Pp. 158–159)

With its most beautiful capitals, Serrabone offers a particularly happy adaptation of the sculpture to the architecture, a perfect application of ornament, which is determined by the balance of the capital and yet preserves the beauty and harmony of a free creation, which is sometimes enriched with a spark of imagination. The compact animal is the main component of the capital. The medieval sculptor, knowing the importance of the corners, emphasized and reinforced them. Two lions unite their heads on adjacent capital surfaces. The animal body was a decorative motif, which could be designed very freely. For example, a lion could be reduced to just one head, even just one mouth from which the paws of a prey protruded. The viewer's gaze is drawn to mutations and suspected combinations, the boundaries between species are abolished, diverse life proliferates in complex, unstable forms.

You can feel that it is often a question of the utilization of traditional forms and that the models were chosen with their elegance, their graphic quality and their harmonious proportions. Huge roaring mouths, bared sharp teeth, and large protruding tongues can create illusions, but the bodies are held in conventional poses and serve as surfaces for ornamental decorations.

Serrabone, cloister, wall niche with fresco

It is known that in the Middle Ages the orientalizing character of these decorations and the imitation of fauna on old fabrics, mostly carpets, which were woven in Byzantium and the cities of the Middle East and then brought to Europe. The antithetical groups often depicted in the Serrabone priory already represent a preselection from these fabric motifs: eagles and lions rise on either side of a central motif, such as a spiral ornament adorned with a frill, or a simple line formed by the animals stretched up or down becomes. Typical motifs of the oriental models can be found here, especially the striding lion and the centaur that shoots an arrow at the deer, but also significant details such as the tail that protrudes between the lion's hind legs and whose tassel fans out on its body . The Serrabone griffin, with its wings attached directly to the front legs and covered with feather structures, is true to the Sassanid model. But these fantasy creatures are not typical of Serrabone, not even of the general Romanesque sculpture in Roussillon. They are found in very similar versions in northern Italy, where one can also observe the phenomenon of the “reduction” of a complex iconographic subject to simple details. It would therefore be very presumptuous to want to establish your direct contact between Roussillon and the Orient.

Wall painting

(P. 159)

On the south wall of the main nave, wall paintings have been discovered in the area of ​​the gallery. In the course of restoration work, fragments of a Descent from the Cross were uncovered under the last window of this ship. Christ's right arm is just released from the cross when Nicodemus pulls the nail from his left hand with pliers. Joseph of Arimathea receives the body of the tortured man. John supports his head in sorrow. An angel hangs the solar disk over the right arm of the cross. The scene was part of an iconographic cycle, because a little above the angel you can see the manger with ox and donkey from the birth of Christ. In addition, in the first half of the twentieth century there were remains of a depiction of Christ's descent into hell in front of the gallery , which have now disappeared.

These are frescoes on a white background. Ribbon ornaments separated the individual scenes. The figure of John is somewhat reminiscent of the Catalan apostles of Santa Maria de Mur (Spanish article) in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston , a work that is dated to the mid-12th century. The paintings in the church were therefore made hardly earlier than the gallery that covers part of it.

The wall paintings that have been preserved are probably the remains of the originally complete decoration of the walls and vaults.

In the wall of the cloister gallery are the remains of a plaster painting, which was probably made in the 15th century, in a now glazed, pointed-arched niche. It depicts a Pope who is flanked by two cardinals.


Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Durliat, Marcel; "Romanisches Roussillon", 1988, Echter Verlag, pages 109-161
  2. Reynal, Jean and Poisson, Olivier; "The Serrabona Priory"; 1991; Pages 1-32
  3. Reynal / Poisson p. 30
  4. Reynal / Poisson S. (10–11)
  5. ^ A b Droste-Hennings, Julia and Droste, Thorsten; "France the South West", DuMont Art Travel Guide, 2007
  6. Reynal / Poisson-11 (p. 11)
  7. Reynal / Poisson (pp. 15-16)
  8. Reynal / Poisson (p. 16)
  9. Reynal / Poisson (pp. 18–19)
  10. Reynal / Poisson (pp. 22–24)

Web links

Commons : Prieuré de Serrabone  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 42 ° 36 ′ 6 "  N , 2 ° 35 ′ 42"  E