Portico de la Gloria by Master Mateo by Mary Elizabeth Podles

Column: A Thousand Words

Portico de la Gloria by Master Mateo

by Mary Elizabeth Podles

The Portico de la Gloria was originally the main entrance to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Figure 1), the end point of one of Christendom's principal pilgrimage routes. In the Middle Ages, wealthy European pilgrims traveled to the Holy Land to walk in the footsteps of Jesus; the comfortably well-off crossed the Alps to St. Peter's in Rome; and the rest of Europe went on foot to visit the remains of St. James at Compostela.

The portico itself (Figure 2) is enclosed in a porch-like narthex, and has three entrances opening onto the central nave and the two flanking aisles. Above the left-hand door are carvings depicting the Last Judgment; on the right are saints and Old Testament figures; and in the center sits Christ in Majesty surrounded by the instruments of the Passion, the Evangelists, and the souls of the blessed. Above and around him sit the twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse, and at his feet,
St. James.

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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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