Reliquary cross of the True Cross, known as the Cross of Clairmarais.
North of France (Clairmarais or Saint-Omer ?), 1210-1220
Saint-Omer, Musée de l’hôtel Sandelin, inv. D 30
H. 65,2 ; l. 34,4 ; Pr. 2,9 cm
Gilded silver, chiseled and engraved on a wooden core; filigrees, niello, pearls, cloisonné enamels, and gems, among which 1 antique intaglio.
Lille 1874, n°500 ; Paris 1965, n°55 ; New York 1970, p. 123 ; Bologne 1979, p. 61 ; Cologne/Bruxelles 1972, p. 344 ; Venise 1984, p. 269 ; Saint-Omer 1992, n°2 ; Paris/New York 1995, p. 356 ; Namur 2003, p. 354-355 ; Paris/Saint-Omer 2013, n°89.
Obverse: Three cross-shaped compartments, each inscribed in a quatrefoil, are arranged on the shaft of the cross. Only the central compartment has preserved the two pieces of the True Cross: the other two have been filled with a series of beads.
Around the illustrated medallions on the reverse:
- Around Christ in Majesty: "A + ω EGO SUM A ω PRINCIPIUM ET FINIS"
- Around the Virgin: "SANCTA MARIA"
- Around Saint John at the Crucifixion: "+ IOHANNES APOSTELUS [sic]"
- Around Saint John at the desk: " IOHANNES APOSTOLUS "
- Around Saint Mark at the desk: " + MARCUS EVVANGELISTA "
- Around Saint Luke at the desk: " + LUCAS EVVANGELISTA "
- Around Saint Matthew: " + MATHEUS APOSTOLUS "
Around the fleur-de-lis tips, clockwise starting from the top:
- " + IOHANNES APOSTOLUS ET EVAGELISTA [sic] VIRGO DEI ELECTUS"
- "OS VITULI LUCAM DECLARAT QUI SPECIALEM MATERIAM SUMPSIT DE CRUCE CRISTE TUA"
- "+ MATHEO SPECIES HUMANA DATUR QUIA SCRIPTO • INDICAT E TITULO QUID DEUS EGIT HOMO"
- "+ AVE MARIA GRACIA PLENA DOMINUS TECUM BENEDICTA TU IN MULIERIBUS ET BENED..."
- "+ EFFIGIAT MARCUM LEO CUIUS LITTERA CLAMAT QUANTA SURREXIT UI TUA XPE EARO [sic]"
According to legend, the Clairmarais reliquary cross was created to hold the relics of the True Cross brought back from the Holy Land by the Count of Flanders Thierry d'Alsace, founder of the Cistercian Abbey of Notre-Dame de Clairmarais.
After the abbey's suppression in 1791, the heirs of the last abbot who had retrieved the object sold it to Mr. Lefèvre-Hermand, who donated it to the confraternity of Notre-Dame-des-Miracles in Saint-Omer. Classified as a historical monument on May 11, 1897, it has been on deposit at the Musée de l'Hôtel Sandelin since 1979.
The condition is good. The filigree obverse has suffered less than the reverse, which shows notable alterations and losses: entire portions of the beaded border and four granulation rosettes on the rings have disappeared.
The niello decoration on the lateral and upper ends is heavily oxidized and the medallion under the feet of Christ is heavily damaged.
At the intersection of the lower traverse, the crucified Christ, with closed eyes and a bowed head, is attached by four nails, while his wounds let thin streams of blood flow. Everything seems to indicate here that he has just expired.
From his head sprouts a long bifid stem terminating in palmettes, which establishes a visual link with the Salvator Mundi, inscribed in a mandorla, in the upper register. At his feet, the resurrected Adam rises from his open tomb, his face directed upwards.
The ends of the lower traverse bear, on the other hand, representations of the Virgin and the Apostle John - with the characteristic affliction of the Crucifixion - while the remaining four medallions present the evangelists at their lecterns.
For comments see: Lucas Fellag, L'Iconography of Northern Reliquary Crosses (Late 12th - Early 13th Century), 3 volumes, unpublished research paper, Master's Degree in Art History, under the direction of Marc Gil, University of Lille, June 2020, vol. III, cat. 12.
- Deschamps de Pas 1854, p. 285-293
- Van Drival 1859, p. 2
- De Laplane 1863, p. 54-55
- Loriquet 1892, p. 124-127
- Evans 1948, p. 72
- Collon-Gevaert 1951, p. 214
- Thoby 1959, p. 147-148
- Steingräber 1960, p. 196 et 198-199
- Frolow 1961, n°519
- Frolow 1965, n°519
- De Borchgrave d’Altena 1966, p. 111-112
- Grimme 1972, p. 52-53
- Gauthier 1974, p. 205
- Verdier 1974, p. 279-280
- Gauthier 1983, n°85 et p. 144
- Sauerländer 1989, p. 85
- Taburet-Delahaye 1989, p. 56
- Favreau 1996, p. 541
- Dewanckel 2001-2002, p. 63
- Mangold 2003, p. 90, 152
- Coipel 2004 (I), n°4
- Favreau 2005, p. 1018
- García de Castro Valdés 2009, p. 396
- Mezzacasa 2014, p. 185-186
- Fellag 2020, t. III, cat.12.