Of Archers and Lions: The Capital of the Islamic Rider in the Cloister of Girona Cathedral

In: Medieval Encounters

Abstract

In the south gallery of the cloister of the Cathedral of Santa María, Girona, we find one capital that is differentiated from the rest because of its formal as well as its iconographic characteristics. The four faces of capital no. 4 contain two repeated and two alternating motifs: the archer on horseback and the lion attacking a bull. Both the dress of these horsemen and their physical traits identify them as Muslim horsemen. This identification creates an interpretive context for the capital as a whole that also conditions the reading of the conquering lion. Both images will be examined within their constructive context in the light of events and legends that surrounded the cathedral of Girona in the twelfth century. Moreover, we will trace the origin of these motifs that have their parallels in ivories of the art of the caliphal and taifa periods as well as in Catalan Romanesque and Sicilian-Norman art. This overview will enable us to interpret the meaning and significance of the capital in its historical-artistic context and enrich our knowledge of the artistic transfers between Andalusian and Romanesque art.