Thursday, 24 September 2015

The face that launched a thousand reprimands ...

The other day I was doing some research in the Basilica of Sant Feliu in Girona when this face stopped me in my tracks. She seemed to be looking straight at me, and she didn't seem too pleased with what she saw ... .

You've got to admit that she's a pretty austere looking lady. And when she fixed me with those unseeing eyes she took me all the way back to junior high when my eleven year-old self stood in front of our very formidable headmistress struggling to explain why my skirt was a couple of inches short of complying with school uniform regulations ... .

Experience over the years has taught me that it's dangerous to read too much into the features of a face. Sometimes the old grump with a furrowed brow who's skulking in the corner has the wickedest sense of humour and turns out to be the best company in the room. But just look at the disdainful downward curve of that mouth, and the imperious angle at which the head is held ... .

I'd be prepared to wager that this face belonged to someone who was used to getting her own way, and who had very definite views on how the world ought to behave. Given where she's been carved I'd say it's safe to assume that she was a religious lady, quite possibly some aristocratic benefactress who was honoured with this stone carving for her largesse. And, at the risk of sounding prejudiced, I'd be prepared to believe that she was a bit of a tyrant.

She dates from the early fourteenth century, and has been carved into a doorway that would have led the officiating priest out to the High Altar.

And on the opposite side of the door arch this chap appears:

He looks a great deal more benign. Perhaps he was a monk of great holiness who led a blameless life. Although he looks more like a regular citizen to me: one who might have pulled up his hood to protect his ears from the elements as he want about his business outside.

But whatever the way of it there's one thing that stands out clearly, and that's the skill of those early stonemasons. From the curl of the man's beard to the drape of the lady's wimple, the detail is exquisite. It's quite something that they still have the power to arrest a (relatively) disinterested passerby and make her pause to consider the foibles of the personalities involved some eight hundred years after they've been laid in their graves.

All the best for now,

Bonny x


  1. Hi Bonny!
    The craftsmanship in the old churches is truly amazing. I can't carve my name in a rock, much less a face. I do wonder why the gentleman appears a little nicer? hmm... I guess we will never know. :)

  2. Ciao Bonny, I really enjoy these kind of blog-posts from you!
    Thank you for sharing and have a lovely weekend. :)