North Side - N16MS54

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Saint Martin

The key scene of the legend of Saint Martin of Tours is represented on the west side of the capital: Martin on horseback raises his sword to divide his sleeveless military cloak into two equal parts. The blade of the sword bears the inscription: S[ANCTVS] DIRI[MI]T V[ESTE]M. Above the blade the inscription MARTINVS can be read on the console block. On the north side, Christ, flanked by two angels, holds an intact, i.e. “sewed-together”, cloak. The Saint’s biography, the Vita Martini of Sulpicius Severus, recounts, however, that, Martin retrieved only half the cloak, when Christ appeared to him in a vision. So here Christ is represented as the restorer of the essential unity of the Old and New Testament, which hitherto had been divided by the sword. He “covered the poverty of the Word [meaning the old Law] with a royal mantle, which exalted it”. The south side of the capital is filled with an architectural scene: it could represent either the city of Amiens, where Martin, a Roman soldier and catechumen (candidate for baptism), was stationed, or the abbey of Ligugé that he founded.
On the east side another event from the life of the Saint is recounted: In the abbey of Ligué, Martin restores to life another catechumen who had died before he could be baptized. The figure to the left doubtless represents Martin; he holds high a cross in one hand and a book in the other, as the standard instruments for raising the dead. A man with a staff is standing by the feet of the dead man on his bier. The inscription along the top of the impost block names the scenes of the Saint’s legend as follows: MARTINVS ADHVC CATECVMINVS/ HAC ME VESTE CONTEXIT/ HIC MARTINVS ELECTVS/ DEI PONTIFEX. A frieze of interlaced beasts runs round the bevelled impost below it: griffins and birds, hunting dogs and griffins.