Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude

shortly after 1038
You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share

Did You Know?

On the bottom of this altar is a trap door that opened to reveal small relics of saints wrapped in silk.


Commissioned by Countess Gertrude of Brunswick, this portable altar is one of the Guelph Treasure’s earliest and most sumptuous objects. The choice of white-speckled porphyry as the altar stone signals Gertrude’s worldly aspirations; an imperial color since classical antiquity, porphyry was only used by the imperial family. Historical figures of royal and imperial rank are depicted with Christ, the Virgin, apostles, and archangels along the altar’s sides, stressing the countess’s political ambitions and claim of imperial lineage for her own dynasty. The Latin inscription surrounding the altar stone reads, "Gertrude offers to Christ, to live joyfully in him, this stone that glistens with gems and gold."
Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude

Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude

shortly after 1038

Germany, Lower Saxony?, Romanesque period, 11th century

Visually Similar Artworks

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.