Another lovely rose window

I do like rose windows.  So here’s another one.

This one is at the end of the north transept in Reims cathedral, in northern France, and it tells the story of Adam and Eve.  In the 13th century, most people couldn’t read, and they wouldn’t have had access to any books, anyway.  All Bibles in those days were owned by the church and in Latin only, so the priests would recount and interpret the stories for their parishioners, and the windows in the church – like comic strips – would retell and reinforce some of the important ones.

The north transept rose window from Reims cathedral, France

The north transept rose window from Reims cathedral, France

In the centre of this window is God the Creator of all, and the Adam and Eve story is told clockwise in the panels radiating out from the Almighty.

Central panel detail showing God the creator of all

Central panel detail showing God the creator of all

At the 12 o’clock position, the story begins, with God creating the first people.  At 1 o’clock, we see Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.  The other panels show other parts of the story, sons Cain and Abel, Cain slaying Abel, and so on, although the sequence doesn’t chronologically follow the Genesis story.  For instance, in the 10 o’clock panel, below left, we can see Adam and Eve with the serpent, and then at 11 o’clock eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, yet their banishment from the garden for doing this occurs in the 8 o’clock panel.

Top three panels, showing scenes from the story of Adam and Eve

Top three panels, showing scenes from the story of Adam and Eve

This window was made between 1231 and 1241, and it’s possible that when the panels were removed for restoration in the 17th century they were replaced in the wrong order, but somehow that seems unlikely.  It may be that the story of Adam and Eve was so familiar that narrative sequencing was not that important  in recognising the content of the images.  Has anyone got a better explanation?

 

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2 Comments

  1. These are gorgeous! At first glance I thought it was the St. Chapelle. I’ll put them on my list of things to see before I die. Thanks!

    Reply
  1. Reims South Transept Rose Window | Enthusiastical

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