The western facade Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg is one of the most impressive architectural masterpieces of Gothic art in Europe. Its construction was begun in 1277 under the episcopate of Conrad of Lichtenberg, by the architects Erwin of Steinbach, Michael Freiburg and Ulrich Ensingen. The real facade is hidden behind a veil of stone relief composed of gables and arches of different models. A “duplication” of the facade at the time was the latest fashion of the French church architecture.
Today we’ll look closer at the south portal of the western facade of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. Here we see a stone illustration of the parable of ten virgins from the Gospel of Matthew 25:1-13 :
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, “Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!” Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying, “What if there isn’t enough for us and you? You go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.” While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But he answered, “Most certainly I tell you, I don’t know you.” Watch therefore, for you don’t know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
On the right side of the south gate, we see Christ, who symbolizes the Bridegroom whom The Virgin were hastened to meet. Christ is represented here as a mature man with wrinlked brow. He is surrounded by five wise virgins. Calm and relaxed, they take their oil lamps straight.
On the left we see the five foolish virgins near the Tempter.
Their lamps are reversed. Four virgins realize that their irrationality will play them a trick.
One that is near Tempter is gay, her lamp is thrown on the ground, and her hand pulls the collar of the dress, like preparing to remove it.
Tempter himself is depicted as a handsome young man fashion dressed, with crow’s feet around the eyes, which according to medieval iconography, shows his cunning. In his hand, he proudly proposes us an apple. Virgins do not see it, but on its back are hidden lizards, snakes and toads, symbols of sin.
This parable was very popular in Europe in the XII-XIV centuries and was reflected not only in the architecture of the Cathedral of Strasbourg, but in different ways, you can see it in the cathedrals of Magdeburg, Freiburg and Basel, but only in Strasbourg Cathedral, you will see the Bridegroom and the Tempter.