A pig helps itself to a fig, under the feet of a saint. A boy sleeps in the branches of a tree, above the arch. The blessed are welcomed into heaven by angels while the damned are dragged into hell by grinning devils. A lion chews a branch at the foot of a grape vine watched by a small dragon, hidden above. The main carvings around the doorway and porch of the church tell stories from the Bible and the lives of saints. The extra details, added by the fourteenth century stone masons, show glimpses of rural life, myths and imagination, hinting at stories that only the carver could tell. Monochrome stories, told in stone.
(Click on any of the small photos for a larger image).
The facade of the church, Église Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, tells other stories about recent centuries. The stone of most of the statues of saints, kings and bishops is slightly smoother and lighter than that of the vaulting and decorative carving. These statues date from the nineteenth century restoration of the building, replacing originals smashed during the Revolution, when the church was closed for worship, used as a hay barn and then turned into a factory for saltpeter.
The bishops, saints and angels who flank the doorways rest their feet on demons and strange beasts but also on the figures of a prosperous looking man and a crowned king. The story there seems clear; even the mighty can fall from grace.
Down beneath the feet of the saints, protected from the weather by the church porch, the carving round the doorway shows traces of another story. The monochromatic stone of the nineteenth century renovation would look sadly dull to the medieval builders. In earlier centuries the carvings were painted in rich colours and ornamented with gold. These stories in stone were told in glorious polychrome.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Monochromatic.”