A Special Romanesque Spanish Capital

A Special Romanesque Spanish Capital

This intriguing and rare limestone capital, rectangular in shape, certainly surmounted a twin column in an important medieval cloistered complex. The external surface of the sculpture, rhythmed along the upper edge by vertical buttresses, is almost entirely occupied by the low relief figures of two opposing pairs of animals with cynocephalic features, which represent the true peculiarity of this work.


These canids, belonging to the fervent symbolic bestiary of Romanesque art, are interpreted with an elegant and ornamental design: their tails join together thus creating a sort of allegorical heart, a clear reference to the concept of loyalty, to which the dog has been associated since ancient times. Moreover, on the short sides, the four canids raise and cross one front leg, as a sign of obedience.


At the same time, this iconography is alluding to the role of guardians, typical of canids, that they share with lions, dragons and griffins, much more common for this kind of sculpture. Moreover, the delicate surface of the fur on our canids- which bears surprising traces of the original polychromy – reminds the typical geometric way of rendering lion manes in the Middle Ages.


In the rich panorama of Spanish Romanesque sculpture from the second half of the 12th century, many similarities can be found with this beautiful capital, especially in the stone carvings directly linked to the most important sites such as Girona, Sant Pere de Rodes and Sant Cugat del Vallès. In particular, the capitals of the cloisters of some smaller monasteries like Sant Pau del Camp in Barcelona and, further north, of Santa Maria de Lluçà (built after 1168) can be an interesting comparison: from a figurative, technical and material point of view, these capitals are so similar to the present one, as to suggest that the latter was made by the same workers active in that region between about 1180 and the beginning of the 13th century.


Cloister of S. Maria de Lluçà Monastery

Double Capital
Spain (Catalonia)
Circa 1180 -1200
Cm 30 x 45 x 26
Study by prof. Luca Mor


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