North Side - N24Sh23

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Massacre of the Innocents

The story of the Massacre of the Innocents begins with the order of King Herod the Great of Judea to his soldiers to kill all male children under the age of two. In front of Herod sits one of the wise men who has prophesied the birth in Bethlehem of the future rival to the throne and new king of the Jews. This detail is also found in mosaic form in the cathedral, on the north side of the crossing, although it is missing from the abbreviated version of the story illustrated on the western bronze door.

Events unfold in a clockwise direction around the capital and include several dramatic depictions of the massacre itself, while various gestures give expression to the mothers’ despair. The sequence closes with a soldier leaning on his sword, indifferently observing the scene.

The construction of this capital clearly differs from others in the cloister. Emerging over the top portion of the calathos is the abacus, decorated with a leaf motif, over which is another round intermediate slab and the impost block decorated with a palm motif. The acanthus leaves that form the base for the figures are arranged on a higher level than those on other capitals and consequently, the space for the figures is relatively compressed. This serves to emphasize the horizontal orientation of the scenes which, in turn, facilitates the impression of an overall unity of space and the simultaneity of the events depicted.