Lazarus Raised from the Dead
On the west side of the capital – and thus clearly visible on the way from the present portal of the cloister to the entrance to the church – the open grave and the shroud-wrapped corpse of Lazarus are represented.
Arranged round the sides of the capital, the standing figure of Christ is flanked by the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, the apostles and further witnesses, who express their grief or astonishment with lively gestures and also their revulsion at the dreadful odour emitted by the dead man, according to the biblical passage (Jn 11:38-45). Four days had passed since the death of Lazarus. Several witnesses of the scene cover their noses with their hands; some comment on what had happened; and others nervously rub their hands. On the south-west corner of the capital, by contrast, the figure of Christ stands in majesty and serenity; a cruciform nimbus is placed behind his head. Barefoot and clad in a garment ruffled by the wind, he points to the dead man.
This episode is one of the best known miracles of Christ. It is a presage of the Passion, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ himself and that of the dead at the Last Judgement. It is an enactment of Jesus’ affirmation: “he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”. Such ideas are perfectly consistent with the context of a tomb that, according to inscriptions on the wall of the north wing opposite the capital, was immured here.
The scene begins on the north side with an architectural arch (the house of Martha and Mary at Bethany). The carefully calibrated composition of the scene lends a monumental character to the relief. The emotion of the protagonists, their gestures and the details of the figures make this capital one of the finest in the cloister.