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Stylophore Lions, prevalent in medieval architecture, served a significant role as figurative sculptures supporting pedestals at the entrances of cathedrals. The term ‘stylophore’ is derived from Greek, meaning “stylus bearer” or more aptly, “column bearer.” It refers to sculptures of animals or mythical creatures positioned at the bases of supporting columns in porticos or pulpits, commonly found in Romanesque churches.

The lion, a recurring figure in these sculptures, is a potent symbol of strength. Its placement at church pulpits and entrances was emblematic of the protective force safeguarding the sacred space within. Medieval bestiaries, rich in symbolism and allegory, also cast the lion as a representation of Christ for several reasons. In the Book of Revelation (5:5-6), Christ is referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” highlighting a direct biblical connection. Additionally, a common medieval belief was that lion cubs were born dead and brought to life on the third day by their father’s breath, mirroring the resurrection of Christ after three days.

The lion’s depiction itself carries layered meanings. It is often portrayed as majestic at the front with smoother hair at the back, symbolizing Christ’s dual nature as both divine (Son of God) and human. Furthermore, its proximity to the throne in the Book of Revelation (5:5) and its frequent appearance in medieval iconography underscore its association with the presence of Christ and the embodiment of divine justice.

In a more secular context, the lion symbolised justice in the administration of law. The phrase “inter leones et coram populo” (among the lions and before the people) refers to the practice of administering justice in the presence of these symbolic guardians, reinforcing the lion’s role as a symbol of fairness and authority.

The present piece published in “Fanfare for Europe The British Art Market 1973”

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Early Renaissance Stylophore Column Bearing Lion

Stock Number: 76879

14th century early Renaissance pink Verona marble stylophore lion, originally as one of several column supports for a pulpit or entrance.
  • Height: 43 cm (17 inches)
  • Length: 49.5 cm (19.5 inches)
  • Depth : 34.5 cm (13.5 inches)

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Approximate Dimensions

  • Height: 43 cm (17 inches)
  • Length: 49.5 cm (19.5 inches)
  • Depth : 34.5 cm (13.5 inches)

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