This double cathedra in walnut wood was probably intended for an abbey, according to the sculpted decor.
This cathedra is made from a symmetrical aspect and is divided into three levels. The bottom level has a base sustained by six feet. In the front, the base is decorated by four sculpted elements flattened with a “napkin fold decoration”. Each of the seat rises, revealing a trunk.
The intermediate level in divided by three straight and solid armrests. The lower part of the backrest has two inlaid panels with “tarsia certosina” for geometric patterns. This technique also called “inlay in the mass” consists in digging a cavity in the wood to inlay decorative elements. Those panels are framed with the “tarsia a toppo” technique.
The top level is divided in two elements. The top part of the backrest has two panels, where parchment patterns frame two badges. Three pinnacles dominate the summit of the backrest.
The center of the backrest is sculpted in a rectangular shape. Inside, there are two niches with biblical characters: Saint Anthony the Great and the Virgin Mary.
Saint Anthony the Great:
Or Antony the Ermit is a monk considered as the father of the Christian monasticism. Born around 251 in Egypt, he withdraws very early into a spirituel solitude. Divine powers are conferred to Saint Antony thanks to the exorcism of the king of Catalonia’s family. But also, the piglet’s episode, born blind.
During the XI century, a hospital Order is founded under the invocation of the saint which makes him a holy thaumaturgist.
His iconography appears during this period, often represented as an old man with a bear wearing a hooded bute dress, characteristic of the monks of his order, sign of poverty. Also, wearing a long coat. This bas-relief takes back all its usual attributes.
– The tau: holding in his left hand, which serves as an abbot’s crook. Also embroidered on his coat.
– The bell: hanging from his right hand, also known as hermits’ attribute, used to repel demons.
– The book of “la règle des Antonins”: sign of the diffusion of the Faith and the precepts of the Order.
– The pig: first, from the piglet’s episode. Then he often is linked to demons, and has another function here: he represents firefighting, coming from the fact that his meat could cure ill people from ergot poisoning. In Italie, he’s known as “Antonio del porco”.
– Flames: are associated to the French name of the ergot poisoning (“le feu saint Antoine”: Saint Anthony fire). This attribute is emerging during the XVI century.
Furthermore, a nimbus crowns the hermit. The two olive branches symbolize peace. We can see resilience and the pain of the saint who bares the disease of humanity.
The Virgin of the Apocalypse:
Saint Antony is looking at the Woman of the Apocalypse. This biblical character appears in the twelfth chapter, described by Saint John. Theologians have recognized the appearance of the Virgin even though there are differences for this identification. As a matter of facts, to some, this figure could be the New Eve holding the New Adam in her arms.
Other iconographic representations, such as the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption, use the Woman of the Apocalypse attributes.
In fact, the Virgin is crowned by angels, holding the Christ. This representation of the Virgin of the Apocalypse is being formed during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This iconography takes it rises during the XVI century.
In our cathedra, the Virgin is standing up, wrapped in a long flowing drape falling down her feet. The collar of her tunic is decorated with embroidery and brocades.
Mary is wearing her hair down, framing a calm and benevolent face, looking down. Two angels are crowning her, with gemstones.
She seems to be holding a Christ gesticulating. The baby Jesus hangs on Mary’s neck.
Finally, the Virgin is resting on a moon cross. The moon symbolizes the frontier between the incorruptible world and the corruptible one, which in the ancient tradition, used to be under the moon. And so, the Virgin seems incorruptible.
· RÉAU, Louis, Iconographie de l’Art Chrétien, Iconographie des saints (A-F), Tome III, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1988, p. 101-113
· SAINT JEAN, « l’Apocalypse » (XII, 1-2), Bible de Jérusalem, Les Éditions du Cerf, 1997