The Heavenly Jerusalem: from Architectural Canopies to Urban Landscape in the Southern Portals of Chartres Cathedral
By Sara Lutan
Assaph – Studies in Art History, Vol.3 (1998)
Introduction: The sculptural program of the southern portals of Chartres cathedral (dated to between 1210 and 1250) comprises both monumental and small sculpture. While the monumental programs have been studied (along with other parts of the cathedral) for about the last one hundred and fifty years, the small gothic sculpture of the cathedral, including the sculptural cycles in the archivolts, the canopies and the corbels, as well as the cycle of ninety-six reliefs on the four piers of the southern porch have remained peripheral to scholary interest. They have rarely been the object of study and their meaning has been almost totally neglected. It is in this small sculpture of the southern portals of Chartres cathedral that representations of a major subject of Gothic thought and art can be illuminatively traced and examined – images of the Heavenly Jerusalem. It is the purpose of this article to study the urban forms sculpted on the southern portals of Chartres cathedral as representations of the Heavenly Jerusalem and to follow their development from the canopies over the jamb statues to the architectural frames of the small reliefs of the porch. The simultaneous presence of two modes of urban representation which stand for the Heavenly Jerusalem – architectural canopies and architectural frames – on the same façade, makes the study of their iconographic and stylistic function, as part of the entire sculptural program of the cathedral, not only possible, but systematic and explicit as well.