Altar frontal from Santa Margarida in Vila-seca

The Romanesque frontals tell us the lives of the saints to whom they are dedicated. Through this story we will discover the story of Saint Margaret, as well as other curiosities.

The Romanesque altar fronts are full of details through which the life of a saint is narrated. In the scenes on the fronts, then, we will find gestures, beasts or symbols, all of them with specific meanings that helped to understand a story and to transmit values ​​to the medieval people.

Altar frontal from Santa Margarida in Vilaseca (1175/1200) by Vic workshopsMev, Museu d'Art Medieval

The Virgin with the Holy Child

The Virgin and the Holy Child dominate the altarpiece: she is sitting, holding a  fleur de lis, a symbol of purity. She has the Infant Jesus on her lap, who is holding a book with the inscription of IHC. They are accompanied by four angelical figures.

The saint is captured by the soldiers

While Margarida is grazing the flock of sheep she is captured by the Roman soldiers “miles” and is brought in the presence of the governor Olimbri “Olimbrvs”, who sentenced the saint to a different tortures as a revenge because of her refusal to accept.

Margarida is flogged and incarcerated

The executioners flog her in the presence of Olimbri, who is covering up himself with a cloak to avoid the saint's blood splash on his face. After that, Margarida is imprisoned in jail as explains the inscription located at the part below: “in carcere".

The saint is devoured by a dragon called "Rufus"

Being in jail, the saint is devoured by a seven-headed dragon called Rufus, which is associated with Satan.  We can see two scenes: in the first one, the dragon is gobbling her down; then, the saint, having done the cross symbol, rips the dragon's belly and leaves uninjured.


A second devil in the shape of a black dragon with red spots is defeated by Margarida, who steps on his head and stretch his ear as a sign of victory. This second devil is called “Velzx”, which is an abbreviation of Belzebú.

The protector of midwifes

The part of the legend that explains how Margarida leaves uninjured from the belly of the dragon turned her into  the protector of midwifes. They made an appeal to her in order to them child could leave healthy from the belly just as Margarida came out.

The martyrdom of santa Margarida

Margarida suffers pain in the hands of the executioners “carnifices” and in the presence of Olimbri. Her hands are tied and she is hanged on a bar which is held with hooks; moreover, she is tortured by the cruel application of a red hot iron tool on her body. 

The death of the saing

The last scene represents the executioner “Malcus”, who is decapitating Margarida. She is wearing a white tunic -as well as the martyrs- and dies accompanied by a white dove. 

The red pigments

During the Romanesque period the interest in vivid colours was preeminent. The wings of the angel are painted with mini, an orange pigment that was artificially done. The red one is cinnabar, produced in the mines of Almadén. And the lead white was made with a vinegar mix.

The clothing of Olimbri

During the Middle Ages men and women wore stockings, which were made of wool, linen or silk. But only men could show them, because women were dressed with long dresses. There were several colours, but the red ones where the favourite choice of the upper classes.

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