Duomo di Modena – Modena, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Duomo di Modena

One of the earliest depictions of an Arthurian scene that is shrouded in mystery.  


Constructed in 1099 by little-known Italian architect Lanfranco, Duomo di Modena, also known as Modena Cathedral, is one of the more important Romanesque buildings in Europe. The massive structure is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Saint Geminianus. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

For scholars and fans of the Arthurian legend, the cathedral is well-known for its north gate, Porta della Pescheria (“Fish-market Gate”). The gate is decorated with high relief carvings of secular scenes from the Breton tales of King Arthur. These Modena Archivolt reliefs are one of the earliest depictions of the theme, featuring some characters that are not known anywhere else, whether in art or literature.

The sculpture depicts the Knights of the Round Table’s attack on the castle of King Maleagant, who is holding Guinevere, wife of King Arthur, prisoner. Here, Maleagant is identified as Mardoc, and Guinevere is known as Winlogee. The knights in the depiction are known as Artus, Isdernus, Carrado, Galvagin, Che, and Galvariun. They likely correspond to Arthur, Yder, Caradoc, Gawain, Kay, and Galeshin.

However, this remains a theory and there are many other thoughts about Modena Archivolt. Some believe that the hero displayed is not Arthur, but Yder. Others claim that the scene is not Arthurian at all. Another mystery that surrounds the carving is that it features one unnamed knight, whose identity is still unknown. 

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