(active 1100-1150)

Suicide of Judas

Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, Autun

Master Gislebertus was one of the greatest sculptors of the Middle Ages, who inscribed his name on the tympanum of the main portal of the Sainte-Lazare Cathedral at Autun. The majority of the capitals in the interior of the cathedral are also ascribed to him; most of them are on pilasters and therefore remain firmly connected to the surface. His sculptures are some of the most human, touching works that exist in Romanesque sculpture. The original capitals were removed and are on display in the Musée Rolin near to the Cathedral.

In contrast to the Flight into Egypt, the suicide by hanging of Judas is a scene of anger and terror of evil, which Gislebertus depicted in the tympanum with just as much vividness as the more positive emotions of mankind. The betrayal of Christ was inspired by the Devil, and two other devilish figures appear here, helping Judas to hang himself. Nonetheless, the triangle formed by their heads gives the composition a sense of balance which expresses the human misery of despair in devastating fashion.