Capital with New Testament Scenes

12th century
The Holy Chamber, Cathedral of St. Savior, Oviedo, Spain

On the right an accuser takes the adulteress before Jesus (John 8:3-11). His right hand points to the law that demands her death, but Jesus' right hand reaches out to protect her. The figure of Jesus is shared by this grouping and the one on the right face of the capital, which depicts the Harrowing of Hell (see below).

The figure on the left corner is an angel; his wings are more obvious when one looks at the left face (see below). Except at the Resurrection the only place in the New Testament where an angel addresses a woman is Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation. Many hallmarks of Annunciation images are missing here, but if we take the woman to be Mary there is an eloquent contrast between the book in her hand and the scroll in the accuser's. There must also be some idea behind the gift in the angel's hand, which appears to be the same sort of fig that the child Jesus gives his mother on the left face. It also resembles an object the angel offers Mary in an Annunciation at Portomarín,Spain.

The Romanesque enthusiasm for animal scenes may be all the explanation needed for the capture of the wild boar at the very top of the capital, though one may consider a grim parallel between what the dogs and hunter are doing to the boar and what the scribes and Pharisees have in mind for the adulteress.

The Holy Chamber features a number of columns with capitals. This one is in the middle of the right side as one enters the chamber.


The left and right faces of the capital

This image in full resolution
More of The Annunciation
More of The Woman Taken in Adultery

Photographed at the cathedral by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.