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North Side - N09MS47

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The Miraculous Draught of Fish

Two fishing-boats are represented, one on the east side, the other on the west side of the capital. Their similarity in form underlines their antithesis in content. On the west side three men sit in the boat; two of them are rowing, while the third forms his hands into the shape of a circle (perhaps a reference to Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus teaches the people from the boat). Four fishes stretch their head up from the deck, as if they wanted to mock the fishermen’s lack of success. On the east side, by contrast, the fishing net is cast out, and two men, one of whom is holding the rudder, haul in the catch, this time “a great many”: the fish are stacked up to the top of the console block. Further cast-out nets are suspended from bow and stern. The draught of fish is “miraculous”. The north side again shows three men. The one to the right has a halo and is holding a roll of parchment in his right hand. All of them are pointing up to heaven, the origin of the miracle. The haloed figure could represent Simon Peter, the “fisher of men”. The other two are perhaps his companions James and John. On the south side is the standing figure of Christ. His halo, inscribed with the sign of the cross, lies exactly over the console block. His arms are stretched out. He holds a wide-open book in his left hand, presumably a further reference to the fact that he personifies the understanding of Holy Scripture. Exactly below the open book two fishes of the miraculous draught fly upwards into the boat. It is possible that the iconography combines the episode of the miraculous draught of fish from Luke’s Gospel (Lk 5:1-11) with the appearance of Christ by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-11).
The frieze of the bevelled impost block is adorned with winged and cock-headed monsters, lying back to back; their long reptilian tails are interlaced in the central axis to form various motifs.