The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Romanesque Europe

What is a historiated capital?

An innovative element of Romanesque church decoration, a historiated capital is a space just above a column that illustrates a compressed narrative. Flight into Egypt is a twelfth-century historiated capital in the French Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, attributed to the sculptor Master Gislebertus. The scene depicts the Madonna and Child riding a donkey led by St. Joseph. Mary looks straight ahead while St. Joseph leans forward, his body conforming to the trapezoidal shape of the capital. More than mere decoration, this historiated capital serves to educate by representing symbolic stories 94 from the Bible.


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