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Portal Essay

A portal is a door, entryway, grand entrance to an important structure, or an opening in a wall or gate. It will contain sculptures and figures that hold a symbolic meaning. The portal can contain a voussir or wedge shaped blocks traditionally used in gothic arches, tympanum or semicircular or triangle decorative wall panel over an entrance or arch, mullion or ornamented dividing element in a window, or decorated columns (Ching, F. ). The art displayed in these portals will depend on the style of architecture and type of building they are ornament.

The Romanesque style directly preceded the gothic style and there is no distinct break in styles as the gothic style really grew form the Romanesque style so it contains many Romanesque elements, mainly the use of religious figures and events. In fact in the case of the portals at the cathedrals in Reims and Chartres there are very little differences at all. The Notre Dame in Reims contains three portals. The main portal is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and has a rose window in place of a tympanum.

The right portal displays the Apocalypse and Last Judgment and the left portal martyrs and saints. The depictions in these portals portray what is the essence of gothic style an intertwining of the religious with mythical events of future objects. The style or the arch that is used in these portals are from gothic arcitecture being pointed instead of circular. (Kermann, P. , 2001) The west portal on the Notre Dame de Chatres is an excellent of the Romanesque style.

The subject matter displays how these two styles; gothic and Romanesque are tightly intertwined. The western portal depicts Christ’s ascension into heaven, episodes from his life including saints and apostles, Christ in Mary’s lap and many other religious scenes. Below these religious depictions are statues of the king and queen, this portal also known as the royal portal. The placing of royalty just below religious figures is supposed to demonstrate the godliness and highness of the royals.

The rose window above the western portal displays the last judgment. (Miller, M. , 1997) These two portals are on two different buildings yet display much of the same information, as they should. Both portals display religious events though the ones at Chartres focus mainly on Christ and specific events while the religious symbols at Reims do not display a series of events but focus more on individuals, with the exception of the apocalypse.

The last judgment is actually on both of the cathedrals but the last judgment is in the window above the portal at Chartres and it is in a portal at Reims. This can be a display of a more seriousness with religion in the Romanesque period based on an incorporation of other factors that have religious connotations such as Martyrs and the Apocalypse. Both portals are exceptional pieces or work but do show the slight difference between Gothic and Romanesque styles.


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