Title of Work
West Facade, Capital Frieze- Life of the Virgin
Title of Image
19: Flight into Egypt and 20: Massacre of the Innocents
c. 1145
West Façade, Left Frieze, Life of Mary and Infancy of Christ, Left Side of Central Portal
From the right:
20: Massacre of the Innocents
(Matthew 2:16-18, Protevangelium of James 22:1; Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew 17:1)
Herod ordered the killing of all the male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area since the Magi had told Herod that the "King of the Jews" would be born there.
This is a long scene covering eight capital faces. It contains approximately 40 figures. The action is spread out over the faces of three capitals and the two concave corners between them. This has been divided into nine scenes or vignettes, 20a through 20i, in response to the content of capital faces, for clarity of identification, and to correspond with the Section Three Capital Frieze Diagram. See the metadata accompanying FCSP18120000 for a complete description of this extended depiction of the Massacre.
(20b) On this capital face, a murderer is holding a sword and tearing an infant from the arms of its mother. Below are bodies of massacred infants, one being mourned by a kneeling figure.
(20c) At the center of the Massacre, in a corner where two capitals come together, sits a crowned figure. Heimann identifies him as Herod. She describes him as "enthroned in the midst of this carnage, his legs crossed, his drawn sword upright, his left arm aggressively akimbo, his cloak blown about as by a hostile wind; he has a broad face with high cheekbones and an elegant mustache, a physiognomy of unforgettable insolence, matching his striking posture to perfection" (Heimann, p. 80). His clothing is elaborate and he wears gloves. The dog's head below him may be part of the chair on which he sits. (Compare with the Throne of Dagobert at St. Denis) Also see Heimann’s note on the relationship of this type of figure to images of wicked rulers.
Compare this scene with the Massacre of the Innocents in Panels 13-5 of The Infancy of Christ Window (Delaporte no. 2, Deremble-Mahnes no. 50). This window is above the frieze and also survived the fire of 1194.
At right are figures from:
19. Flight into Egypt.
At left are figures from:
Type of Work
Subtype of Work
Capital Frieze
Cathédrale de Chartres--Pictorial works.;Church decoration and ornament--France--Chartres--Pictorial works.;Church architecture--France--Chartres--Pictorial works.;Christian art and symbolism--France--Chartres--Medieval, 500-1500--Pictorial works.
Philip Maye
MEDART Website

Chartres: Cathedral of Notre-Dame

19: Flight into Egypt and 20: Massacre of the Innocents