The Main Portal
THE MAIN PORTAL
The portico entrance to the Monastery, by Huguet and unique in the history of Portuguese art, is rife with complex iconography. Left and right of the entrance, beneath the filigreed baldachin, are the Apostles, six on each side and presented on bases fitting into intricate consoles. Above the Apostles, we see an array of emblematic figures from the celestial world: in the first two are archivolts, virgins, martyrs and confessors; and popes, bishops, deacons, monks and martyrs showing their palms, as if inviting those stepping inside to be just as virtuous as they. Within the following two archivolts are the kings of Judah, Mary’s ancestors, in other words, Christ’s own terrestrial lineage, and the prophets and patriarchs whose ministry of the word or life testimony inspired the New Testament.
The two innermost archivolts are taken up by angelic figures: the first, sitting, are musical angels; the following two, standing, represent the seraphim, with three pairs of wings. While the former herald the approach to the throne of God, calling for the soft music that is a sign of happiness in Paradise, the latter are, according to the angelic hierarchy, the closest to divinity.
On the tympanum, the figure of God dominates, literally and symbolically, this entire magnificent composition. In the centre, seated on a throne and covered with a baldachin, God is portrayed in the guise of an ancient, exuding authority as shown in the powerful raised right hand and the globe sitting in the palm of the left. Flanking it are the four seated evangelists, reading or taking notes, accompanied by their symbolic representations: Saint John with the eagle, Saint Mark with the winged lion, Saint Luke with the winged ox and Saint Matthew with the winged man.
This grand sculptural grouping is finished off with the scene of the Crowning of the Virgin.