The Enigmatic Sepulchral Monument of Berengaria (ca.1170-1230), Queen of England (1191-1199)
By Nurith Kenaan-Kedar
Assaph – Studies in Art History, Vol. 12 (2007)
Introduction: The funerary monument of Berengaria, wife of Richard the Lionheart, king of England, is installed in the Cistercian abbey of L’Epau, which she founded on the outskirts of Le Mans and intended as her burial place. On the royal tomb the sculpted image of the queen represents her supine, clothed royal garments and crowned. She is shown holding before her a square, panel-like object. On it, her own image appears once again, in high relief, lying probably onthe floor, this time hands folded on her chest and two candlesticks with burning candles depicted one on each side of her body.
The life and work of Berengaria, her conflicts with various powers over her royal rights and dowry as the former Queen of England and later on as the Lady of Le Mans, and her conflicts with the various ecclesiastical authorities, have been investigated since the 19th century by various scholars. Almost all of them mention the sepulchral monument of Berengaria and describe some of its components, but it seems to me that art historians have not yet deciphered its unique form.