The Modena Archivolt
The Modena Archivolt is a sculpture carved over the north portal of the Cathedral of Modena in northern Italy. It depicts an attack on a castle by a number of knights on horseback. What is interesting about it is that the characters all have Arthurian names. This seems to be a version of the story of the rescue of Guinevere, told in Caradoc on Llancarfan’s Life of St. Gildas, Ulrich von Zatzikhoven’s Lanzelet and Chrétien de Troyes’ The Knight of the Cart. Construction of the cathedral began in 1099, though the sculpture can probably be dated to 1120-1140. This means that it is roughly contemporary with Geoffrey of Monmouth and Caradoc of Llancarfan, but so geographically separate as to be almost certainly independent of them. Below are some details from the archivolt.
|Left is a detail from the apex of the archivolt, showing a castle of stone, surrounded by a moat. Within the castle are a woman, labeled Winlogee (Guinevere), and a man, Mardoc, who is holding her prisoner.|
|Meanwhile, right, three knights are attacking the castle. The one at the front, who is engaged in combat with one of the castle’s inhabitants, wielding a pick-axe, is unnamed. The other two are named Isdernus and Artus de Bretania. Isdernus was possibly Guinevere’s escort when she was captured.|
|On the other side of the castle (left), two knights are in combat. One of them is labeled Galvagin (perhaps Gawain); the defender is labeled Carrado (perhaps Caradoc or Carados).|
|Finally, on the extreme right of the archivolt (right), we see two figures labeled Galvariun and Che (Kay or Cei). The odd thing about them is that they do not seem to be ready for a fight: they carry their lances over their shoulders.|