Masterpieces of Romanesque Art: St. Clement de Tahüll

One of the most common motifs in Romanesque Art is ‘Christ in Majesty’, where Christ is depicted in full frontal view, with the Gospels in his left hand and his right hand blessing the viewers. Christ appears in a mandorla (almond shaped frame), surrounded by the four living creatures that symbolize the four evangelists: The Lion (Mark), the Bull (Luke), the Eagle (John) and the Winged Man (Matthew). This motif, an iconographic evolution of the earlier ‘Christ Pantocrator’, can be seen in apses (as mural painting), in tympanums (as relief) and in elsewhere in Romanesque churches, but nothing comes even close to the absolute masterpiece of Catalan Romanesque: The mural of the central apse of Saint Clement de Tahüll.

The piece, exhibited at the MNAC (National Museum of Catalan Art) in Barcelona, comes from the central apse of a Romanesque church consecrated in 1123 in the Boí Valley in Catalonia. The intentional absence of any naturalism is somehow exaggerated, probably in an attempt to stress the estrangement from God. The Holy Book in Christ’s hand is open, and it has a clear phrase: Ego Sum Lux Mundi (I am the Light of the World).

This piece is not the only Romanesque marvel at the MNAC. Other pieces include murals from Santa Maria de Tahüll, Seu d’Urgell, Maria del Castell de Besora, etc. Also, some great examples of wood carving and sculpture are on show.

Catalunya is a heaven for Romanesque Art lovers, and Barcelona has quite a big share of that. The city’s oldest church is a Romanesque one, Sant Pau del Camp, a hidden and forgotten treasure in El Raval district. Once destroyed by Almanzor towards the end of the tenth century, it was later rebuilt following the original model. The cloister and the tympanum are the main ‘aesthetic’ attractions here, with interesting iconography in the cloister’s columns (the capitals show intricate figurative art resembling an illuminated manuscript…another characteristic of Romanesque art).