The choir is separated from the rest of the church by a screen (or jubé). Originally the choir was reserved to members of the monastic community while the rest of the space was open to visitors. The screen is made of painted sandstone and is decorated with two bas-reliefs.
The lower bas-relief refers to the opening words of Saint Matthew’s Gospel: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers...” The list ends with the words: “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
There are forty characters in all, fourteen of whom were kings, starting from David. Saint Matthew wants to show that Jesus, a Jew and a Jewish, is a direct descendant of the great king David and is therefore entitled to be called Messiah or King.
The first line under the sculpture explains the meaning according to the theology of the time which exalted the role of Mary as the connection between Christ and his ancestors. Thus, Mary becomes protagonist of the Redemption and shares the regal nature of the Son who combines the human and divine condition:
Hec series sanctam produxit in orbe Mariam
que peperit veram sine semine munda Sophiam
This series [of ancestors] led to the birth of Mary,
who, pure and without [human] seed, gave birth to true Wisdom
The upper bas-relief represents the Dormitio Virginis, the “Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary” according to the dogma of the Assumption. There are three scenes. In the first scene on the left Mary is laid to rest in the tomb by the weeping Apostles. One inscription says:
Virginis ad funus mestus stat grex duodenus
The sad flock of the Twelve Apostles attends the funeral of the Virgin
On the right is the scene of the Awakening:
Surge Parens Christi te vocat quem tu genuisti
Rise, Mother of Christ: he whom yougave birth to is calling you
In the middle Christ and Mary are together. Christ is blessing and Mary is holding a sceptre. They are both crowned and wear a royal cloak:
Colloca ecce piam Christe super astra Mariam
Christ, put the pious Mary above the stars
On both sides are the symbols of the Evangelists. On the left is the eagle (John) and the ox (Luke). On the right is the lion (Mark) and the man (Matthew).
The second line in the text below the sculpture helps dating the work:
Anno ab Incarnatione Domini MºCºLXXXºVIIIIº
regnante Frederico Imperatore
completum est opus istud sub Preposito Vidone
In the year of the incarnation of the Lord 1189
during the reign of Frederick the Emperor
the building was completed under the Rector Guido
The inscription stresses the profound relationship between the members of the religious community and the Emperor Frederick I “Barbarossa” whom here is mentioned together with the Rector (Praepositus) Guido who led the community between 1170 and 1200.
The building of the screen was a difficult process. The lower bas-relief includes only thirty-five characters from Matthew’s genealogy. Isaac and Jacob were painted later on the left hand-side pillar. Jacob and Joseph can be seen on the right hand-side pillar. If all characters had been included in the sculpture, a larger area would have been necessary. Therefore a different location must have been originally foreseen. However, for unknown reasons, it was decided to put the sculpture in its present position. Because of lack of space, it was necessary to cut the sculpture at both ends.
This is the only critical intervention on the screen. No further changes were carried out. Its present condition is excellent and the original paint is still bright.
English version: Cristina Mottura
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