The three sculpted portals on the west façade of the Cathédrale St. Etienne date from several phases in the construction of the church. The north portal, depicting the life and martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, dates from the phase of construction occurring around the fire of 1184. The central portal includes elements from two construction phases. The trumeau sculpture and voussoirs were carved just after the north portal, around 1190-1200. However, the tympanum was replaced around 1270, along with the entire south portal, which had to be rebuilt after the collapse of the south tower in 1268. It displays the Coronation of the Virgin, and was probably remade in the manner of the original portal, using models from the Paris region.
The north portal shows John the Baptist as a prefiguration of Christ. The lintel depicts, on the left, John performing Christ's baptism. In the center, under an architectural canopy, Herod's Banquet is shown. To the right is shown the beheading of John the Baptist. In the tympanum above, Christ is shown in majesty flanked by two angels. The voussoirs are historiated in the manner of Le Mans and Saint-Loup-de-Naud, and depict multi-figure scenes from the life of John the Baptist. There would have originally been three jamb figures on each side of the portal, however now only their socle figures remain. The embrasures have medallions depicting on the left Avaritia, and on the right Largitas. It is known that the cathedral at Sens possessed relics of St. John the Baptist, and that the chapel dedicated to him can be reached most easily through this north portal. It was probably sculpted by the same workshop that had soon before completed work on the central portal at Mantes. Similarities in fluid drapery and minute details of carving point to the connection with Mantes.
The tympanum of the central portal, redone in the 1270s, shows scenes from the life of St. Stephen, to whom the cathedral is dedicated. The lintel shows Stephen preaching, his martyrdom, and his soul being carried to heaven. The tympanum shows Christ in Majesty. These narrative details are set within Court Style tracery elements, almost as though they are stained glass narratives. This is unique, and the only known precedent, the portal of Saint-Nicaise at Reims, was destroyed.
It is thought that the central portal might originally have contained Christ in Majesty at the Second Coming, as the surviving early figures attest to this configuration. The voussoirs contain angels, deacons, martyrs, and Virtues. The jamb figures would have originally been images of the twelve Apostles, though all are now missing. The trumeau has an original figure of St. Stephen. The socles below the jamb sculptures show, on the upper register, the Liberal Arts, and on the lower register the Labors of the Month. The doorposts to either side of the entrance have the Wise and Foolish Virgins carved in low relief. Medallions in the spandrels above the portal show, on the left, the open gates of Paradise, and on the right the closed gates. The figures that date from the earlier incarnation of this portal reflect a strong classicizing trend in the figure style of the late twelfth century. There is more attention paid to a naturalistic representation of bodies and the drapery that falls on them. The fragments of heads that remain from the jamb statues also show an embrace of classical models, with the striking realism of their physiognomies. These two portals, according to Williamson, reflect both a close of the first gothic period in the Ile-de-France region, and the first steps towards a maturity of style reached in the thirteenth century, when the workshops of the Chartres transepts and Notre Dame de Paris looked to Sens as a prototype.