CABESTANY, Master of the tympanum

Chronological framework

1160 post quem

Geographical Framework

Tuscany, Languedoc, Roussillon, Catalonia and Kingdom of Navarra


Sculpture. In a high percentage he works with marbles from different origins (marbles have been identified coming from La Montagnola, Saint-Beat, Céret, etc.). Sometimes, it has been indicated the possibility that some of the marbles were of Roman origin and therefore, had been reemployed.

Profile and historiographical debate

Name used to identify the authorship of group of anonymous and widespread works, dated in the second half of the 12th century. In 1944, Josep Gudiol identified a number of common stylistic features among the tympanum of Sainte-Marie of Cabestany (Roussillon) and the tympanum and lintel of Santa María de Errondo (Navarra), and created the nomenclature of Master of Cabestany. Moreover, in this first corpus were included the door frieze of Sainte-Marie de Le Boulou (Roussillon), a fragment of a human figure of Sant Pere de Rodes (Empúries), some capitals of the interior of Sant  Pere de Galligants (Gerona), the sarcophagus of the Martyrdom of Saint-Sernin in Saint-Hilaire d’Aude (Aude) and a capital from Rieux-Minervois church (Lauragais).

During the second half of the XX century, there were several attributions in order to enlarge the former corpus of sculptures: a capital from Sant Esteve d’en Bas and the architectonic sculpture from the apse of St. Papol's church (DURLIAT, 1952); a capital from Sant'Antimo’s abbey (JUNYENT 1962); a sculptured column from San Giovanni in Suganna (PRESSOUYRE, 1969); fragmentary sculpture from a door of Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse (GUDIOL, 1971); some carved reliefs preserved in the castle of La Réole (GARDELLES, 1976); architectonic sculpture from the apse of church of La Asunción in Villaveta (SIMON, 1979);  two capitals preserved at the Musée Archeólogique of Narbonne (CAMPS-LORÉS, 1990);  the doorway sculptures at the Monastery del Camp in Passà (PONSICH, 1990); some capitals from the church of Saint-Étienne in Vazille (BONNERY, 1990); two capitals from the cloister of Prato's cathedral (BURRINI, 1994).

The proposal of Master of the tympanum of Cabestany has been recently presented with the aim to review this extensive corpus of works, taking into account the parameters that distinguish the tympanum of Sainte-Marie of Cabestany, which presents a very peculiar narrative composition, devoted to the Blessing and Death, Resurrection and Assumption of Virgin Mary (BARTOLOMÉ, 2010).

One of the main features of this workshop is the specialisation on carving the marble, according to the characteristic patterns of the Roman sarcophagi from the 3th and 4th centuries. Particularly, very specific analogies are detected regarding to the disposition of the scenes in a continuous frieze, and the style and technique of the figures work. The using of the drill and the combination of high and low relief can be directly related to the constants of the Christian Roman sarcophagi from the first quarter of the 4th century.

The discussion on this sculpture has been traditionally focalised in its relation with the contemporary sculpture of the 12th century. A large historiographical tradition has established its origins in the workshops of Saint-Sernin of Toulouse and Saint-Pierre de Moissac (MORALEJO, 1982; CAMPS 1994 et alia). Nevertheless, the common denominators that have been detected in these works indicate an intense learning of the rules of the Roman sarcophagi sculpture of the 3th  and 4th centuries. Therefore, the most recent studies point to a direct relationship with the renewal of the Tuscan sculpture of the second half of the 12th century, and specifically with the Master Guilielmus, the author of the pulpit of Santa Maria of Pisa Cathedral between 1158 and 1161 (GANDOLFO, 2006, BARTOLOMÉ 2010).


  • Capital of Daniel in the lion’s hen, Sant’Antimo (Siena)
  • Column of the Jesus childhood, San Giovanni in Sugana (Florence)
  • Architectonic sculpture of Sant Papol abbey, Saint-Papoul (Lauragais)
  • Sarcophagus of the Martyrdom of Saint-Sernin, Saint-Hilari d’Aude (Carcassonne)
  • Architectonic sculpture of Sainte-Marie de Rieux-Minervois (Minervois)
  • Architectonic sculpture of Sainte-Marie de Lagrassea (Carcassonne)
  • Tympanum of the Blessing and Death, Resurrection and Ascension of the Virgin Mary, Sainte-Marie de Cabestany (Roussillon)
  • Frieze of the Childhood of Christ, Sainte-Marie de Le Boulou (Roussillon)
  • Portal of the Life, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, Sant Pere de Rodes (Empúries)
  • Tympanum of the Three temptations of Jesus in the dessert and lintel with angels, Santa María de Errondo (Navarra)

Text: Laura Bartolomé Roviras


GUDIOL I RICART 1944: 9-16; DURLIAT 1952: 185-193; JUNYENT 1962: 169-178; PRESSOUYRE 1969: 30-55; DURLIAT 1971: 193-198; GARDELLES 1976: 233-239; CAMPS - LORÉS 1990: 125-137; SIMON 1979: 106-111; MORALEJO ÁLVAREZ 1984: 193, 198-199; BESERAN 1990: 17-45; CAMPS 1994: 95-107; BONNERY 1993: 24-25; PONSICH 1993: 278-279; BURRINI 1994; AA. VV: 2000; GANDOLFO 2006: 425-437; MILONE 2008: 181-191; BARTOLOMÉ 2010; BARTOLOMÉ 2012: 109-124.