(active mid-12th century in Provence)

Exterior view

c. 1150
Abbey of Saint-Gilles, Saint-Gilles-du-Gard (Gard)

The abbey church of Saint-Gilles belongs to a former Cluniac monastery in the département of Gard in southern France, 16 km west of Arles. The present building was begun in the first half of the 11th century, when the shrine of the saint became a place of international pilgrimage. Constructed over three centuries and never completed, it consists of a large crypt or lower church surmounted by an equally large upper church. The earliest work is in the crypt; the latest, dating from the early 13th century, is in the unfinished east end of the upper church. The sculpted façade, executed in white marble and limestone, is also unfinished. It suffered extensive damage and restoration in the 17th century as a result of the Wars of Religion, and further restoration was carried out in the 19th century. It still preserves one of the largest ensembles of Romanesque sculpture, however, and is one of the most famous and controversial of medieval monuments. Approached by a flight of steps, the façade consists of three portals with tympana, an extensive frieze, and large figures of the Twelve Apostles and two angels, set in niches. The articulation is provided by free-standing columns, some of which are reused Roman work, with Corinthian capitals and other ornamental detail of Classical form.

Discussion of the sculpture of façade the has centred on two issues: the date and the original form of the façade. As for the date, the opinion, which has gained ground more recently, is that most of the façade sculpture dates from the mid-12th century.

The façade of the church bears witness to the presence of Roman temples in the vicinity.

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