THE PANEL OF THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE
The last panel to the left has sculpted elements at first sight unrelated to each other: in the lower left there appears to be a fountain between a bird and another animal, their forms uncertain and stylized; above this there is a flower with five petals in a round frame, under a spiral motif, while the right side is occupied by four large roundels – the two lower ones with floral designs and the other two with rhomboidal figures. The lower image on the left could be interpreted as the Fountain of Life, an iconographic motif of middle-eastern origin introduced for the first time in Western art in the Carolingian Gospel Book of Godescalc (a miniaturist) commissioned by Charlemagne after his voyage to Rome in 781: a fountain between two animals, usually birds or deer, who drink from it. As a Christian symbol it represents the soul, which through the Word of God gains salvation, a meaning linked to the other panels of the pulpit. The four roundels on the right are explained by Fornasari (2005) as perhaps linked to the Quaternary Doctrine, since the fifth element (the spiral) is on the left above the fountain. This does not explain the roundel underneath, with the five-petalled flower, unless this is considered to be the sum of the five circles. The roundels are too large with respect to the fountain to be considered merely decorative elements, even if in Lombard sculpture it is not rare that secondary motifs occupy fairly sizeable spaces; one must also bear in mind that the pulpit might have been reassembled with the panels in positions different from their original ones.