ARCHITECT, French
(active 7th century in Poitiers)

Interior view

674-96
Photo
Baptistère Saint-Jean, Poitiers

The architectural decoration of the interior is considerably more sophisticated than that of the exterior, although it is probably contemporary. The entrance arches to the apses and the triangular- or round-headed arcading surrounding the upper windows are carried by grey marble columns, probably spolia from Roman sites, with white marble capitals, which were probably imported from Aquitaine. These display a variety of designs, all more or less based on the Corinthian capital: one incorporates two fish (perhaps dolphins) into its design, but otherwise they are purely foliate.

During the Middle Ages the baptistery was used as an abbey chapel and parish church, and in the Romanesque and Gothic periods the walls were painted with important frescoes, including an Ascension, warrior saints, and scenes from the Life of St John the Baptist. A 12th-century painting of a figure on horseback, accompanied by the inscription CONSTANTINUS, represents Constantine, the first Christian emperor; this is significant because it may shed light on the identity of the monumental statues of equestrian figures found on the façades of so many churches in western France.




© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.