Among the many Romanesque bronze doors in Europe the old entrance doors of the metropolitan cathedral in Gniezno, in North Poland, are exceptional. For over a century many historians and historians of art have tried to understand and explain its iconographic programme. Polish, Czech, and German scholars have so far been unable to identify with any conviction, either the iconographic models or the artistic provenance of the workshop. Connections of the suggested episcopal patrons to France have been proposed, and the technological expertise of the foundry workshops of the Meuse Valley have been emphasised. This ‘Meuse hypothesis’ – based mainly on historical suggestions – became established as a certainty. However, it is important to emphasize the significant difference between the creator of the composition and of the craftsman who cast the bronze doors. Lech Kalinowski pointed out, many years ago, some general formal similarities to North Italian sculpture. The purpose of this paper is to develop Kalinowski’s suggestions and to emphasise the puzzling similarities between details of Gniezno doors and some works executed in stone by Master Wiligelmo of Modena and Master Nicolò of Verona. The proposed Italian relationship seems better for a comparative analysis than the relationship with the Meuse Valley, which is based mostly on historical context. Crucial here is the additional, parallel analysis of the portal decoration of Czerwinsk Abbey, east of Gniezno, attributed to Wiligelmo’s workshop.

During recent conservation work some details of the door were, in my opinion, ‘over sharpened’, so the illustrations of the Gniezno doors used in this article are based on archival photographs.