c. 1050–1100; engraved gem: AD 1–100; rock crystal mounting: 800s–900s; setting: late 1200s
Wood core; gold, chased, engraved, nielloed; filigree; 14 gemstones, 50 pearls; copper, gilded; rock crystal, cut, bored, polished
Overall: 22.6 cm (8 7/8 in.); Cross: 17.2 x 13 cm (6 3/4 x 5 1/8 in.)
Medieval artisans crafted metalwork vessels to contain relics, often luminously decorated with enamel or precious stones to evoke the glistening kingdom of heaven.
This cross, encrusted with gems on the front and engraved with an image of the Crucifixion on the reverse, is the second oldest reliquary in the Münster treasury. An inscription indicates that it contained various relics such as pieces from the cross on which Christ was crucified and Christ’s tomb. Precious objects from ancient pagan and early Islamic cultures have been incorporated into the decoration: an engraved gem of the Roman goddess Minerva and a ninth- or tenth-century rock crystal flask originating from the Abbasid Caliphate in Egypt (750–1258). It was not uncommon for medieval artisans to utilize luxury non-Christian artifacts to make religious pieces more magnificent.
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