QR La Sauvetat 7b
Virgin of the chapel of the Hospitallers
The chapel of Saint John the Baptist houses an exceptional work of art, donated to the Commandery of La Sauvetat in 1319 by Odon de Montaigu, Grand Prior of Auvergne of the Order of the Hospitallers. The Virgin in Majesty, 54cm high, has a wooden core featuring numerous gilded and chiselled copper plates, some decorated with champlevé enamel, which are embossed and assembled using spikes. Produced in the famous Limoges enamel workshops, this Virgin is the only dated work in the series of Limousin Marian statuettes. It has been listed as a Historical Monument since 1897.
A precious tabernacle
Once thought to be a reliquary, the Virgin of the Sauvetat is actually a tabernacle. The back of the throne has a small door that opens to the Eucharistic compartment. An angel is depicted, which seems to indicate the dedication inscribed around it. Composed of 13 lines of Gothic capitals in lapis blue enamel, separated by threads of red enamel, it perpetuates the memory of the donor and, uniquely for this type of object, tells us the date it was donated.
+ DOMINUS: HODO: DE MO
IUS: PRIOR: ALVERNHIE: F
ECIT: FIERI: HANC: IMAG
INEM: AD: HONOREM: B
EATE: VIRGINIS: GL
ORIOSE: ANNO: DOMINI
SIMO: DECIMO: NONO
DOMINUS: DEUS: IESUS
XPS: PER: SUAM: SACM: MI
EUM: IN: VITAM: ETERNAM: AMEN
« Lord Odon de Montaigu, hospitaller and Prior of Auvergne, had this image made in honour of the blessed and glorious Virgin in the year of the Lord 1319. May the Lord God Jesus Christ by his holy mercy preserve it for eternal life. Amen »
- The Virgin’s backless throne has three sides crowned by an openwork arcature flanked by elegant twisted colonnettes terminating in a stud. On the left side, against a background of blue fleur-de-lys enamel, the figure of Saint Peter is engraved, carrying the keys and haloed by a nimbus of red and white enamel.
- The frontal, hieratic stance and fixed gaze of the Virgin and Child Jesus are reminiscent of 12th century works. They contrast, however, with the suppleness and breadth of the drapery and the position of the child, seated on his mother’s left knee, indicative of a transitional piece. Attention to detail is evident in the finely chiselled motifs on the Mary’s tunic and the touches of coloured enamel enhancing her belt and the tips of her shoes. The sceptre, originally in the Virgin’s right hand, has disappeared.
- The left arm of the throne, missing one of its torso mouldings, is dedicated to Saint Paul, identifiable by the sword he carries, the instrument of his torture. Blue semi-precious stones are set into the plinth of the throne, which is adorned with scrollwork.