As the seat of an abbey founded by William the Conqueror, Montebourg in the Cotentin peninsula retains no Romanesque edifices. The baptismal fonts placed in the parish church of Saint-Jacques (14th century) are thus exceptional for two reasons.
The cylindrical basin in limestone is covered with a decoration sculpted on two levels. Four human heads project from the base and are linked by foliage motifs. The upper register presents interlacing patterns with four strands forming what is in effect the lower part of a wicker motif.
This type of sculpted decoration, which dates from the first third of the 12th century, is fully developed on the baptismal basin in the church of Saint-Martin in Rocquencourt (Calvados). It can be given a symbolic interpretation: interlacing in groups of 8 knots was understood as a reference to the figure of eternity. This is also a common decorative theme in the north west of Europe. A similar decoration can be found on English baptismal fonts in Chaddesley, Corbett, Eardisley and Stone. The basins in Montebourg (Manche) and Rocquencourt (Calvados) are the only surviving examples in Normandy.
- Musset, Lucien. - Normandie romane, I : la Basse-Normandie, La
Pierre-qui-Vire, Zodiaque, 3e éd., 1987, p. 296 - 297.
- Vivier, Emile et Seguin, Jean. - Les anciens fonts baptismaux du département de la Manche, Avranches, 1941, p. 19-20.
- Baylé, Maylis. - La cuve baptismale de Rocquencourt, notice du catalogue de l'exposition "Les Normands, peuple d'Europe", Rome, Venise, 1994. - Paris : Flammarion, 1995, p. 491.