Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (Tarn-et-Garonne)

This very well-preserved Romanesque corbel, from a once-magnificent abbey destroyed during the Wars of Religion, is one of a handful now on the outside walls of houses in the mediæval town.

Saint-Antonin has, by the market-place, the oldest (1125) secular building in France. Unfortunately it was 'improved' in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc - who, amongst other 'embellishments' added the bizarre and inapposite belfry. It has, however, excellent Romanesque details and sculpture, including an Adam-and-Eve.

This moustacheless male is a Blemya who has no feet and whose face is on his torso - hence the arms seeming to issue from his head, in the same fashion as a beard-puller corbel on San Pere de Galligans in Girona (Spain). He also brings to mind the astonishing Romanesque figure from the Irish Round Tower at Tomregan). He seems to be gripping a reliquary (?) A similar bearded man, on a culot (corbel supporting a rib) at Tollevast in Northern Normandy has a similar item beneath him. A much cruder version of the Saint-Antonin blemya can be seen at Bridlington in Yorkshire.

Note the drilled eyes on this corbel, which are a late 12th-century feature, and the rat-ears.
Compare with another enigmatic bearded head at Golinhac (Aveyron), and a superb beard-puller at Gluges (Lot).

The 'nail-head' decoration around the figure echoes the teeth in the Jaws of Hell - much represented in Romanesque sculpture - and especially those devouring the female exhibitionist nearby.

It is possible that such figures represented Cathars, whose male Perfects were bearded and who rejected the Catholic doctrine of Hell.

click to see other random corbels
on the same building


Compare with this carving at Sant-Pere de Galligans, Girona.


A page of beard-pullers divided into two groups
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The Saint-Antonin beard-puller from the side.

The house in the rue Droite into which the Saint-Antonin corbel is inserted.


Close-up of another corbel on the house shown above supporting a window-box.

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More carvings on web-pages devoted to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val >


A remarkable French-style
Romanesque beard-corbel in England

Beards on a superb 12th century Irish