Through the Portal: Viking Motifs Incorporated in the Romanesque Style in Telemark, Norway
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AbstractThis paper presents the results of an analysis of motifs identified on six carved wooden Romanesque portal panels from the Norwegian county of Telemark. The findings suggest that animal motifs in the Late Viking style survived long into the Late Medieval period and were reused on these medieval portals. Stylistically, late expressions of Viking animal art do not differ a great deal from those of the subsequent Romanesque style. However, their symbolical differences are considered to be significant. The motifs themselves, and the issue of whether the Romanesque style adopted motifs from pre-Christian art, have attracted less attention. The motif portraying Sigurd slaying the dragon is considered in depth. It will be suggested that Sigurd, serving as a mediator between the old and the new beliefs when he appeared in late Viking contexts, was given a new role when portrayed in Christian art. Metaphor and liminality are a central part of this paper, and the theories of Alfred Gell and Margrete Andås suggest that the portal itself affects those who pass through it, and that the iconography is meaningful from a liminal perspective.