Arch with Beasts


On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 07

This intricately carved arch is said to have come from a twelfth-century church in Narbonne, in southwestern France. It is composed of seven blocks of marble on which are carved eight fantastic beasts, comprising an abbreviated visual bestiary.
Moving from left to right, we see: a manticore with a man's face, a lion's body, and a scorpion's tail; a pelican, who pierces her own breast so that her blood feeds her young, symbolizing Christ's death and resurrection; a basilisk, a cross between a cock and a scorpion that can kill with its looks; a harpy luring men to their doom with her beautiful voice; a griffin, which has the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion; an amphisbaena or dragon, which can form its body into a circle; a centaur with drawn bow; and a lion, who erases his tracks with his tail to elude hunters, symbolizing Christ's incarnation. All of these creatures, whether imaginary or realistic, were familiar to many people during the Middle Ages, and all had their specific lessons to impart.

#24. Narbonne Arch

Arch with Beasts, Marble, French

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.