Ezekiel and Jeremiah

Just at the entrance of the angelic residences, we find two great prophets of the Old Testament. Ezekiel and Jeremiah.


Jeremiah, one of the Bible Great Prophets, is shown with his book. His right hand makes the sign of faith and he finds his place in the history of salvation exactly as the tympanum represents it. His twinning with Ezekiel who carries the tablets symbolizing the unification of the kingdoms, makes sense: both being priests, both speak of the alliance between the two houses of Israel and Judah, of the people unity, of its liberation, of Jerusalem reconstruction, of the conclusion of a new law written in their hearts:
"Here come the days when I will make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah a new covenant. Not like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt [ and which they broke but ] [...] I will put my law deep inside them and I will write it in their hearts [...] because I will forgive their wickedness and no longer remember their sins." (Jer 31 : 31-34)


ezequiel Move mouse over image to display captions


Two details allow us to formulate a hypothesis and identify Ezekiel, a priest of the Temple at the time of Judah's conquest and deportation by Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonian exile is then considered a punishment imposed for the “failures" of the Chosen People that practiced idolatry and polytheism: "All will die, each for his own fault, all hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water" (Ezekiel 7 : 17). On the tympanum precisely, the prophet pulls his chasuble up (the lace surplice, the "ratchet"), and shows his knee. On the return from Babylon, the temple will be rebuilt and the kingdom restored. It is in this context that Ezekiel's "visions" about the Temple and the Kingdom of Israel take place. Indeed, in his visions, the dimensions of the New Temple to be built are revealed. Then, he sees the source  which springs below the threshold.  Invited to cross it, he says : "I had water up to my knees." (Ezekiel 47 : 4) (2).

Other visions concern the reunification of the two divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

Then comes the second sign, the piece of wood (partly deteriorated today) Ezekiel holds in his hand. This is probably an allusion to the prophecy in which the Lord told him to join two pieces of wood to make a single one :
"The Lord spoke to me with these words: ''Join the two pieces of wood [...] so that they become one in your hand [...] I will unite the sons of Israel [...] David shall be king over them. My house will be above them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people [...] I will make with them a covenant of perpetual peace" (Ez 37 : 16-27). These two pieces of wood are united, just as, according to the prophecy, the dry bones will unite to be covered with flesh on the day of resurrection. (Ezekiel 37)


This vision of the resurrection of the dead is also represented in the spandrel located just above Ezekiel, which is no coincidence.
It is not surprising to find one of the last prophets of the Bible at the entrance of Paradise (just against the door), announcing a new Jerusalem, a new temple, and a new cult, whose Christian interpretation is obvious.

Ezekiel is the prophet of the Resurrection and of the saving rather than the condemning Judgment:
"Could I really desire the death of the wicked? Is it not rather that he should turn from his ways and live? none of the sins he has committed will  be remembered against him." (Ezekiel 33 : 11-16)
The Temple, with its pinnacle on the top of the Jerusalem roof is represented by three lamps (the eternal lamps of the Temple) over three arches that house seven figures (number for perfection) that embody two major themes of the tympanum: sacrifice (Abraham and Isaac) on the one hand, and priesthood (Aaron, Zechariah, Ezekiel...) on the other.

(1) Among the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible, we distinguish the three great prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These three great later prophets are all represented on the tympanum (Isaiah at lower right, Jeremiah and Ezekiel at the entrance of Paradise). The Greco-Latin tradition adds a fourth "great prophet" in the person of Daniel. But under St. Hieronymus's influence, some circles doubted whether to integrate him in the canon of the Church until the sixteenth century. Note that Conques Benedictines remain faithful to the Hebrew tradition; they ignore Daniel, but represent St. Hieronymus, the Tables of the Law, and they emphasize Christ's Semitic profile. The legacy of Judaism is still discernible in medieval society. Gilson, citing Hugh of St.-Victor's justification of the political power's sacralization by the ecclesial Institution (in De Sacramentis II , 12) concludes, for example,  that "this single text would prove a fact that is of paramount importance : the most certain source  of twelfth century papal theocracy is the Jewish theocracy of the Old Testament." (Etienne Gilson, Philosophy in the Middle Ages, philosophical library Payot, p. 332) (back)

(2) « The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. » (Ez 47 : 1-2). As well, a spring is spraying under Conques abbey and runs towards the Ouche canyon. (back)

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