Symbolism permeates the Romanesque churches in Poitou-Charentes. Geometrical designs represent the harmony of God’s creations while animals and mythological monsters represent Biblical messages or warn Christians against sin. The images and sculptures decorate the churches in Poitou-Charentes and its walls.
The snake, an animal commonly recognized in the Bible, is represented at the top of the bishop’s staff. It represents the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan and the fall of man. By placing it on the staff, the bishop and the church are reminded that Jesus purchased their salvation on the cross. It is both a warning against sin and a reminder of the gift given to Christians through Christ.
Exotic animals such as lions are also found in Romanesque church decoration. According to today’s reading, the interpretation of the lion’s symbolism involves many different aspects of Christianity. It is a symbol of the Christ and of the resurrection. However, it is also a symbol of how Satan can overpower and consume the human heart, as well as a symbol of the punishment received after sin.
Interestingly, artists rendered some animals in a way that makes them seem strange and out-of-this-world. Those animals represent the hell that awaits those who are not following Christ the way they should. These animals are joined by mythological creatures such as griffons, Capricorns (sea-goats), chimeras, basilisk, and harpies that represent the forces of evil that are present in the world and sirens who represent the dangers of female seduction.
Animals and mythology are taken from other parts of the world and transformed into images on the walls of churches in France. They lose their original meanings and become a part of the Christian mindset of that time. The monsters transformed from the semi-deities of ancient mythology and became the incarnation of unchangeable evils that Christians face. In a time of illiteracy, these fierce images were put in place to direct those who had never read the Bible onto the godly Christian path.