Baldachins were originally placed in the church apse, over the altar, leaning slightly and held by two beams in order to be seen from the nave. Their liturgical function was that of protecting and highlighting the altar, and in certain celebrations oil lamps were hung from them to illuminate them at night. The style of this baldachin corresponds to the Romanesque geometric current, whose greatest exponent was the Master of Sant Climent in Taüll. This current coexisted in the same period with the classical tradition represented by the painter of the Circle of Sant Quirze in Pedret. Because of its balanced formal composition it is considered to be the masterpiece of Catalan Romanesque panel painting. This artist's great technical and creative quality bears comparison only with the painter who did the mural paintings of Sant Climent in Taüll. Stylistically speaking it is very close to the altar frontal from Esquius, conserved in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, especially for the way the capital letters in the Latin inscriptions are drawn. In the same Romanesque art room of the Museu Episcopal de Vic, the altar frontal from Puigbò is exhibited, whose author seems to have followed the model of the image of Christ Pantocrator established by the painter of this baldachin from Ribes. The scene presents the apocalyptic iconography of the Last Judgement, the “Parousia”. The figure of this Christ Pantocrator is shown seated, blessing with his right hand and with the book of the Gospels open with the inscription “peace and law”. Eight angels with standards and staffs, typical of the ritual of the Byzantine court, surround his figure, of which only three have survived. The inscriptions conserved, according to their transcription by M. Gros, read: “May he who ascends to the stars lead me to the hope of eternal life”; “Light and origin of the days”. Although the account of its admission to the Museu Episcopal de Vic, in 1906, tells us that it comes from Ribes we cannot be absolutely certain of this provenance.
The catalan baldachins