Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Statues of the West Front

The statues are arranged in five horizontal lines from north to south, exclusive of the figure in the "vesica," the oval above. In the principal niches of the top row is a tier of angels, below this a tier of Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, then a tier of doctors, virgins, and martyrs, and lowest of all a tier of worthies, including princes, martyrs, bishops, and founders connected with the diocese and the Cathedral.

The Vesica contains a figure of our Lord seated, known technically as a "Majesty." In the tier of angels below, noting them from left to right, are the celestial hierarchies, Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; Dominions, Powers, and Authorities; Principalities, Archangels, Angels. The Old Testament prophets are: David with the harp, Moses with the Tables of the Law, Abraham with the knife, Noah with the ark, Samuel with a sceptre, and Solomon with a church. The eight vacant niches should contain figures of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Elijah, Melchizedek, Enoch, Job, Daniel, and Jeremiah. The tier with the Apostles observes this order: On the northern turret St. Jude with a halberd, St. Simon Zelotes with a saw, St. Andrew with the cross that bears his name, St. Thomas with a builder's square; on the north buttress St. Peter with the keys; on the [31]southern buttress St. Paul with a sword (both these are restorations of ancient figures); on the southern turret St. James the Less with a club, St. James the Greater with a pilgrim's staff, St. Bartholomew with the knife of his martyrdom and St. Matthias with a lance.

The tier of the doctors, virgins, and martyrs, keeping to the same order, shows: St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, with a scourge in his right hand, and a bishop's staff in his left; St. Jerome in a cardinal's hat, with a church in his right hand and a bible in his left; St. Gregory in papal tiara, the legendary club on his shield, his pastoral staff doubly crossed, and a book, typical of his writings, on his left. On the smaller north buttress, near the turret, is a restored figure removed from its original place, which represents St. Augustine, wearing a bishop's mitre, and holding his hand as in the act of benediction. On the greater north buttress is the figure of St. Mary the Virgin, to whom the church is dedicated. This figure is also restored. In the eleven niches over the central door are, with their various symbols: St. Barbara, St. Catherine, St. Roche, St. Nicholas, St. George of England, St. Christopher, St. Sebastian, St. Cosmo, St. Damian, St. Margaret, and St. Ursula. On the greater south buttress is St. John the Baptist, and on the lesser an old figure unrestored, supposed to represent St. Bridget. On the southern turret are St. Mary, St. Agatha, St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, each wearing the martyr's crown. The tier of worthies comprises: Bishops Giles de Bridport and Richard Poore, and King Henry III. as a founder. Bishop Odo, with a wafer in his hand, commemorating the legend of his miraculous proof of the transubstantiation of the Blessed Sacrament; St. Osmund, Bishop Brithwold, St. Alban, St. Alphege, St. Edmund, and St. Thomas of Canterbury.

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