Rachel’s tomb was at Bethlehem and Romanesque depictions implicitly refer to her, as they feature the mothers of the children attempting to restrain Herod’s soldiers. This is the image presented on the capital of the Porte Miègeville at Sernin de Toulouse.
According to Matthew’s account, Herod learnt from the Magi that they were come to venerate the new King of the Jews. In order to ensure that Jesus would be killed, Herod ordered the slaughter of all children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. Joseph, forewarned by an angel, had already fled into Egypt with Mary and the child.
It is the synthesis of the Massacre of the Innocents with the souls of the martyrs from the Book of Revelation which informs the sculptural programme on the porch of the Abbaye-aux-Dames at Saintes.
The Elders are identifiable from their iconographic attributes, the musical instrument in one hand and the phial in the other. This is a representation of Revelation 20.4 “And I saw thrones and they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God”.
Following exegetical traditions such as the writings of Ambrosius Autpertus, the Elders of Revelation 4.4 are identified as the occupants of the thrones.
Biblio: Y Christe, Jugements Derniers