North Side - N14Sh13

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Life of John the Baptist

On this capital, events from the life of John the Baptist are represented chronologically from the east side. On the left, dressed in his rough camel’s hair garment, he preaches repentance to the Pharisees. In the following scene he is shown baptizing in the River Jordan.

Moving clockwise, the next episode depicts King Herod rebuking the Baptist for supposedly inciting a mass revolt as a prophet of the coming Messiah. Herod is also displeased at John’s open disapproval of the king’s unlawful relationship with his own sister-in-law, Herodias.

The next two sides of the capital show the feast of Herod and the subsequent beheading of John. At the behest of her mother Herodias, Salome asked her step-father for John’s head as a reward for the dance she had performed for him at the banquet. The bewitching dance itself, however, is not shown. This is in marked contrast to other well-known capital depictions of the dancing Salome found in the cloister of Notre-Dame-de-la-Daurade in Toulouse, or on the bronze door of the cathedral of Verona. On the contrary, at Monreale Salome enters the scene already bearing John’s head in a bowl.

The figures here are proportionally larger than those on the other cloister capitals, and they are lined up along the high relief of the calathos. The abacus and the impost block are both cut equally deeply and decorated with a zig-zag pattern and a diamond frieze.