Rendezvous with my favorite artist, Gislebertus, at the Cathedral of Saint Lazare in Autun

The stone carvings at the Cathedral of Autun by my favorite artist, French Romanesque sculptor Gislebertus, knocked my socks off, made me laugh, and terrified me all at once.  Listen to me people: this is the real deal, some of the finest art you can ever see.  Sure, I want you to look at the pictures, but to really get Gislebertus’ mastery of expression, the high-relief and depth of field, you’ve got to see this in person.

Autun is a super town: in addition to the Cathedral of Saint Lazare, there’s a fine museum and several Roman ruins.  The farmers market is one of the best we’ve visited in France.   Trust me on this: jump on a train from Paris to Autun, load up at the farmer’s market, and eat your picnic at the cathedral with my boyfriend and favorite artist Gislebertus.  You can thank me later for twisting your arm.


The church is a the highest point of Autun, and my goodness it’s windy up there!


The Last Judgement Tympanum, c. 1130.  The signs of the zodiac and the labors of the months are depicted on the arch.


The upper zone of the tympanum is heaven.  At the right hand of the Lord, St. Peter is welcoming the placid Blessed people to heaven.  Of course Gislebertus’ most imaginative works are at the right hand, with the weighing of the souls and the terrified sinners being yanked into hell.


Gislebertus’ signature–the first ever found on stone work from the Romanesque period.  One of the pilgrims is gazing adoringly at Gislebertus’ name.


When you’re Redeemed make sure you hold tight to an angel so they can pull you up.  See the angel in the center giving a butt boost right into the heavenly city?  That cracks me up.


The pilgrims are marching up to heaven–the one with the Greek cross went to Jerusalem.  The one with the scallop shell went to Santiago di Compostella.


Weighing of the souls.


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Quite a talent: simultaneously eating and smashing grapes while holding on to his package.


The nave with pointed arches, no doubt made under the influence of Islamic architecture.

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Giselbertus’ capitals all tell a story, and mostly they are horror stories.


The second temptation of Christ.


Fall of Simon the Magician The capitals are circa 1125.  OMG HIS TONGUE!


Suicide of Judas–it’s hard to tell in the picture but he’s hanging himself with a belt.


I love the swirls of the cloak on the bell ringer to the left.


Eve, the first large scale nude in European art since antiquity.  It was originally on the lintel of the north portal but we saw it in the Musee Rolin, adjacent to the cathedral.  She’s so modern!

How we got to Autun: train from Beaune.

Where we slept: Hotel du Commerce et Touring.  Price: €46 for a double.  Recommended: yes.






  1. scottshort · · Reply

    Matti- come down to the Cote d’Azur to see the painted ceiling at the cloister in Fréjus. We’ll put you up!


    1. Thanks Scott–that’s an enticing offer. I really want to see that ceiling with the fantastic animals!


  2. Isn’t this superb!
    The sould hanging onto the angels make me think of Belloc’s verse:
    Always keep a hold of nurse
    For fear of finding something worse….


  3. Belloc! I adore Belloc and hadn’t heard that one, thanks!


  4. Gislebertus, a genius if there ever was one. Autun looks much nicer in the summertime btw, in the winter it was pretty dead.


    1. I’ll have to go back in the summer. While I’ve traveled all over France, it’s only been in the winter….


      1. Oh, I assumed this was recent! Looks nice in any case.


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