San Geminiano 6 Arthur 1

In addition to representations of the crusades that have straightforward parallels in crusading chronicles (see, for example Hardham), there is a large body of images that have been interpreted to include allusions to the crusades. These interpretations tend to be open to debate. The sculptural decoration of two doorways of Modena Cathedral — Porta dei Principi (above left) and Porta della Pescheria (above right) — are two examples. The lintel of the first and the archivolt of the second were executed at about the same time, between 1120 and 1140. The subject matter of both of them, centering on the rescue of a woman from captivity, is similar, and it is likely that the two were conceived to complement each other.


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The lintel of the Porta dei Principi, a southern doorway of the cathedral of Modena, contains a series of images inspired by the Life of San Geminano, the patron saint of Modena. According to the Life, a daughter of a Byzantine Emperor became possessed with the Devil. San Geminiano journeyed East to rescue her, first on horseback and then by boat.

San Geminiano 1

San Geminiano 2

San Geminiano rescued the young woman from the Devil (represented as an owl) and returned her to her parents.

San Geminiano 3

The Emperor richly rewarded San Giminiano, who went back home to Modena, where he received a warm welcome and was eventually buried.

San Geminiano 4

San Geminiano 5


Archivolt Modena

The archivolt of the Porta della Pescheria, a northern doorway of the Cathedral of Modena, depicts the rescue of Winlogee (Guinevere) from captivity. With one exception, all figures are identified by inscriptions.

The left side of the archivolt depicts three armed knights on horseback. The first is unnamed. The second, looking back, is Isdernus (Lancelot).

Arthur 3 Lancelot

The third is Artus Britani (King Arthur). Burmaldus, wielding a battle axe, emerges from the castle to meet the three knights.

Arthur 5 Arthur 6

There are two figures inside the castle: Winlogee (Guinevere) on the left and Mardoc (Meleagant), her captor, on the right. The castle itself is surrounded by a moat filled with water. To the right, Carrado, on horseback, emerges from the castle.

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On the right, there are three more knights identified by inscriptions, from left to right, as Calvariun (Galeschin?), Che (Kay) and Galvaginus (Gawain).

Galvaginus Galvariun


It is possible that the designers of the two doorways were drawing a parallel between the “rescue” of Jerusalem by the participants of the First Crusade and the rescue of a Byzantine princess on the Porta dei Principi and of Winlogee on the Porta della Pescheria.

Jeanne Fox-Friedman notes the importance of crusading for one of the major patrons of Modena, the Countess Matilda of Tuscany (d. 1115).


Modena is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.


Jeanne Fox-Friedman, “Sacred and secular: Modena Cathedral and monumental world maps.” Arte medievale, 10, no. 2 (1996): 39-55.

Jeanne Fox-Friedman,  “Messianic Visions: Modena Cathedral and the Crusades.” Res, 25 ( 1994): 77-95.

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