Daniel in the Lions’ Den
The Old Testament story of Daniel in the lions’ den and the prophet Habakkuk is the theme of this and one other capital (W05MS61) in the cloister. On the east side Daniel is enthroned at the centre, his arms outspread, his hands open, in the impressive pose of the orant. He was punished by the Persian king Cyrus by ordering him to be cast into the lions’ den; there he remained for six days with seven lions, without the lions devouring him. The first two lions (to the left and right of Daniel) turn their heads away from him, as if expressing their reluctance to attack him. On the north and south sides the rest of the pack seem to be pressing forward.
On the west side of the capital the prophet Habakkuk is represented. He was carried to Babylon from Judea by an angel sent by God, to give food to Daniel; the angel stands to the left. The city is represented by a tall tower to the right. The figure with the sceptre and short tunic, who stands in the south-west corner (below the volute), and who moves towards Daniel and the lions, could perhaps be the Persian king Cyrus, who goes to the lions’ den to mourn Daniel, but then sees with his own eyes the miracle that has taken place: Daniel has survived. Then the king acknowledges: “Thou art great, O Lord God of Daniel” (14:41).
Each side of the impost frieze shows a battle between monsters and a small human figure at the centre. The way this figure on the south side grasps the large bird-of-prey-like creatures round the neck evokes the ancient “lord of animals” iconography”.