The Resurrection

Catalan historiated capital with three faces, late 12th century

FIRST FACE: "And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus" (Mark 16:1). The figure in the middle is presumably the spice merchant; he is weighing out the spices with the scale on his counter as two of the women observe.
SECOND FACE: "And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they come to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen." (Mark 16:2). "And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared" (Luke 24:1). "Again we see only two of the women, each carrying a jar of spices. The architectural imagery above the scene is probably meant to signify the walls of Jerusalem.
THIRD FACE: And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed with a white robe: and they were astonished. Who saith to them: Be not affrighted; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here, behold the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:5-6). As is common in images of the three women, the seated figure is pictured as an angel rather than a young man. He points with his right hand to reflect the "behold" of the text. Only one of the women is shown this time.

Mostly the imagery follows Mark, the only narrative that includes the purchasing of the spices and has the "young man" seated inside the tomb. But Mark has three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and a "Salome") whereas the first and second faces on the capital show only two, as in Matthew. And the third face shows just one. This may be due to mere artistic economy, but it is possible that the sculptor was influenced by Peter Chrysologus' interpretation that because the two women in Matthew are both named Mary, "herein is figured the Church coming out of the two nations, the Gentiles and the Jews, and being yet one." A single Mary inside the tomb may reflect this interpretation. It may also reflect Peter's further remark on the name Mary:

Mary is the name of Christ's mother.… Mary came to the sepulchre, as to the womb of the resurrection, that Christ might be the second time born out of the sepulchre of faith, who after the flesh had been born of her womb; and that as a virgin had borne him into this life present, so a sealed sepulchre might bring him forth into life eternal. It is proof of Deity to have left a womb virgin after birth, and no less to have come forth in the body from a closed sepulchre (Catena, I, iii, 976).

Read more about images of the Resurrection.

Photographed by Richard Stracke at the Musée National de l'Age Médiévale ("the Cluny"), Paris, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.