Saint-Lazare Autun Cathedral is located in Autun, Burgundy, France. Building of the church began in 1120 and was completed in 1146.
The first cathedral built in the town of Autun was in the 5th century, and it was dedicated to Saint Nazaire, Saint Nazaire Cathedral. Within, it held the relics of Saint Nazaire himself, and in 970 the relics of Lazarus of Aix from Marseille were obtained with a false belief that they were the relics of Lazarus of Bethany, the friend of Jesus. This would later cause an increase in visits by pilgrims and thus it was decided to commence the building of the cathedral in dedication of Saint Lazare.
Its depictions of biblical stories and messages through sculpture are unique and display its Romanesque style. Despite the relics of the mistaken Lazarus, a memorable site in the cathedral is that which is referred to as the eardrum.
This relief sculpture completed by Gislebertus depicts an eery image of what the last judgement may look like. The theme of rebirth and life after death is addressed because of the fact that Lazarus experienced death and then resurrection. It was the intention of the sculptor to tell a story and present a message of fear. Images were meant to be read and help communicate with the lay people due to their illiteracy.
In the middle there is a depiction of Jesus and he is enclosed in a mandola, an almond shape that encloses Jesus as if to create a full body halo. On Christ’s left there are those that are condemned to hell and to his right are the souls on their way to heaven. To Jesus’ right we see that Mary, his mother, is seated next to him. Next to her is an angel sounding a trumpet informing everyone of the time of judgement.
Below Mary, angels are shown as they assist the blessed up into the Kingdom of Heaven. Heaven is depicted as an architectural place. Interestingly, souls are depicted as naked bodies.
On the opposite side, a more terrifying scene is shown. The angel Michael is depicted weighing souls. While the angel does such task, there are demons weighing down souls on the scale to weigh for their advantage. A terrorizing feeling is displayed with souls being grabbed by hooks.
The video below goes into greater detail of the meaning of the Last Judgement relief.
As I reflect upon such a raw and illustrative manner of depicting a serious subject as the Last Judgement, I cannot help but to admire the beauty and grander of the physical church. It is inspiring to see how art was used as a way of communication to others. In my small watercolor I wanted to communicate the idea that our bodies are temples and that in the same way that we admire and respect such beautiful architecture, we can see ourselves with such admiration. I wanted to show the portrait and church side by side and almost morphing into one another, and the depict the idea of being one.