The program of sculpture in the west portals can be understood as a Bible or as a Sermon in Stone. The portals also provide a permanent embodiment of some of the great feasts of the Christian year. As a Bible, the program projects the four ways of reading the Scriptures taught in the Paris Schools... (continued below)
The first level was literal: the south portal with its stories of the Incarnation of Christ reflects this reading. The second is allegorical: also illustrated in the south portal with its symbolic linkage between the Virgin Mary and the Ark of the Covenant. The third level is tropological or moralizing: the center portal provides a very clear map of how the repentant sinner by following virtue and avoiding vice can emulate the Apostles and Christ and so ensure a good outcome in the Final Judgment. The final level is anagogical or upward-lifting: this can be experienced when one joins the company of perfect human beings who line the central portal or participates in the final union of Christ and his spouse, the Church (symbolized by the Virgin), in the south portal.
As a sermon the program provides admonitory images of the awful fate of the damned at the Final Judgment. It also provides three avenues of salvation: through good works (center portal), through the intervention of the Virgin Mary who symbolizes the Universal Church (south portal) or through the agency of the local church with its priests, sacraments and, above all cult of relics (north portal).
North and south portals are linked by the double celebration of Epiphany (January 6) and in the following week, the discovery of the relics of Saint Firmin. And the center portal provides a permanent celebration of the central feast of the Christian year, Easter.
Fullscreen image of the West Facade available here.