An Early Christian Sarcophagus Recarved in the 12th Century

In the area west of the modern farmhouse an early christian sarcophagus was excavated in 1979. It was found upside down and had been used for fill. It has been fully published in Stoddard, W., "Sarcophage paléochrétien découvert à Psalmodi," in Revue Archéologique de Narbonnaise 14 (1981), pp. 225-237. The following remarks are a brief overview of this interesting piece.

The early christian sarcophagus, probably carved in Nimes in the 370's, is formed from a Roman altar. The bottom side has a pater, a device to hold back a curtain, decorated by a lion's head that is clearly Roman in style. The front of the Roman altar was cut back to make room for three scenes separated by two strigilated panels. This is a common layout for later Roman sarcophagi.

The Early Christian sarcophagus at Psalmodi.

The central panel, which is only partially preserved, depicts Christ standing between Sts. Peter and Paul. It is done almost entirely in drill-work, with relatively deep folds and the concern for surface patterning that is typical of the age.

The central panel.

The left panel depicts the arrest of Peter. Peter's left arm has been broken off and the area beneath it reveals the same deeply drilled folds of the central panel. The two left-hand figures of this panel, except for the very top of the left-most figure, have been recarved. This later work was done with chisels as opposed to drills. The surfaces are smoothly rendered and the drapery is depicted by wind-blown folds. This is clearly much later work. The style of the drapery relates to some of the figural sculpture from St.-Guilhem-le-Désert in the Musée Languedocien in Montpellier and in St.-Guilhem itself.

The left-hand panel.

This sarcophagus was probably brought to the island in the middle ages, perhaps before it was recarved in the 12th century.