Introduction to the Cloister of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines


The Romanesque church of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines is located in the Roussillon Region of South France. Initially built by the Benedictine Monks in 819, Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines was repeatedly destroyed by Saracens from Spain, until rebuilt for the last time in mid twelfth century.[1] Like many of its contemporaries, Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines contained a cloister that was used for practical and religious purposes. In addition to having a fountain for washing, the cloister provided a space for meditation, reading aloud holy books, and silent prayer.[2] The cloister was a tranquil place to reflect and connect with God.

The Cloister in Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines was composed of four colonnades, with columns and arches of pink and white marble. The capitals of the cloister were decorated with animal and botanical iconography.

In order to understand the meaning behind this iconography, it is critical to understand the values of the time period. Religion was at the heart of the Middle Ages, with the church being the main patron of the arts. Thus, the centrality of religion contributed to the prominence of architecture, and the beauty of churches contributed to the eminence of religion.[3] As it is clear that art and architecture served religion, I will be focusing on how animal and botanical iconography in the Cloister of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines enhanced the relationship between the viewer and God.


  1. Marcus, George H., ed. Treasures of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the John G. Johnson Collection. S.l.: Philadelphia, 1973. Print. Pg. 32.

  2. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1995. Print. Pg. 109.

  3. Fernie, Eric et al. "Romanesque." Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 19 Mar. 2017. <>.

Introduction to the Cloister of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines