Cross base of the Abbey of Saint-Bertin
Meuse (Liège ?) or Audomarois (Saint-Bertin workshop?), around 1180
Saint-Omer, musée Sandelin, inv. 2800 bis
H. 31,5; L. 29,5; Pr. 29,5 cm
Cuivre fondu, gravé, ciselé et doré, émaux sur cuivre champlevé, bois (âme du pilier)
The dome and frieze were shaped together. The evangelists are inserted into a notch on the frieze and are fixed to the back with a tab and screw. At the top of the dome, the base of the pillar and symbols, fused together, are held by four rivets visible on the inner face of the dome.
The pillar itself is made up of a wooden core (internal pillar), onto which the vertical beaded strips of the corners and the enameled plates are fixed with nails.
Finally, the capital is made up of three nested and riveted parts: a square base associated with the busts, an openwork basket and corner leaves, and a top plinth.
On the capital:
on the phylacteries of the symbols of the evangelists:
on the books of the evangelists:
- Mark (Lk, XXIII, 46): “in man(us) tuas”
- Lucas (Lk, XXIII, 46): “hec dic(en)s expiavit”
- Matthew (Mt. XXVII, 50): “clamans voce magna emis(it) sp(iritu)m”
- on the enamel of the base:
bronze serpent (Num. XXI, 8):
- “serpen erei”
Jacob's blessing (Gen. XLVIII, 14):
the Passover (Ex. XII, 7):
- «signum tau »
- «mactatio agni »
- «hoc est phaze »
rocher d’Horeb (Ex. XVII, 6) :
- « desertum »
- « petra »
- « moyses »
on the enamels of the barrel,
Grapes of Canaan (Nb. XIII, 23) :
- « klef »
- « josve »
- « botrvs »
lijah and the widow of Zarephath (R.XVII,10) :
- « elias »
- « affer michi bvcellam panis »
- « dvo ligna »
The sign of the Tau on foreheads (Ez. IX, 4) :
- « similis aaron »
- « signati »
Isaac carrying the wood for the pyre (Gn. XXII, 6) :
- « ysaac »
- « ligna »
- Grapes of Canaan (Nb. XIII, 23) :
Probably comes from the treasury of the former Saint-Bertin Abbey in Saint-Omer; reappeared after the Revolution with a watchmaker in Saint-Omer who sold it to the town in 1838.
The object is in fairly good condition. Repaired with rivets at the level of the capital at an undetermined date. The question arises about the original fixation of the four evangelists by screws. There is also a question about the age of the red copper sheath in which the cross at the top of the capital was fixed. Fixing holes visible on the capital's waiting bed.
Composed of a hemispherical base and a quadrangular pillar, adorned with enamels and statuettes in the round, this crucifix base responds to a complex iconographic program.
The Old Testament scenes of the enamels prefigure the Crucifixion and the Redemption: bronze serpent, Jacob's blessing, sign of the Tau on the houses (Passover), Horeb rock (on the base); cluster of Canaan, widow of Sarepta, sign of the Tau on the foreheads, Isaac carrying the wood of the pyre (on the shaft). The evangelists, seated on the openwork vegetal border of the base, serve as support; inspired by their symbols located at the junction of the base and the pillar, they write their gospels, in which are inscribed passages relating to the Crucifixion.
The capital with vegetal volutes and seeded fruits houses four bust figures: the personifications of the Sea (man holding a fish) and the Earth (woman with a spade) are easily identifiable; the other two figures, formerly associated with Air and Fire, rather represent the centurion (raised arm) who recognized the divinity of Christ and the allegory of the Abyss (holding a dragon), a symbol of evil defeated by the death of Christ.
The work evokes the monumental cross (now lost) of Suger, who had called upon "Lotharingian" goldsmiths at Saint-Denis, although it is probably not a reduced copy. The enamels, perhaps the work of two different hands, are placed, by their softened lines and palette, by their dappling effects (see the Armilia of the Resurrection of Christ at the Musée du Louvre, Dépt. of Objets d'Art, inv. OA 8261), in the sequence of commissions from the Stavelot Abbey of the 1150s and 1160s and even of the activity of Godefroid de Huy (d. 1174), to whom they could be attributed. The natural poses, expressive faces, supple drapery, and antique accents of the evangelists evoke those of the Bargello and the Mare statuette of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (inv. 630-1864).
The work must have been executed around 1170-1180, probably for the Saint-Bertin Abbey, during the abbacy of Godescalc (1163-1176) or more likely at the beginning of that of Simon II (1176-1186), who undertook to reconstitute the treasure of the abbey.
It could have been made by a Mosan workshop or by a Mosan goldsmith who came to Saint-Omer, like the Mosan illuminator, perhaps also a goldsmith, who was present at Saint-Bertin around 1160-1170, by an artist mastering the technique of lost wax casting.
Notice written based on that of Christine Descatoire in Christine Descatoire and Marc Gil (ed.), A Renaissance. Art between Flanders and Champagne 1150-1250, exhibition catalog (Paris, Musée de Cluny-Saint-Omer, Musée Sandelin, April-July 2013), Paris, RMN, 2013, cat. 47, from the bibliographic database established by M. Gil and Lucas Fellag, as part of the e.thesaurus project, with observations on the work (M. Gil).
- Du Sommerard 1840-46, IV, p. 61 et V, p. 188-189
- Deschamps de Pas 1858, p. 5-17
- Labarte 1864-66, II, p. 253-255
- Van Drival 1874, p. 284
- Von Falke & Frauberger 1904, p. 75-76, 135 et pl. 116 : Mâle 1922, p. 459
- Laurent 1924, p. 80, 83-84
- Garnier 1932, p. 216-229
- Schnitzler 1934, p. 19 et suiv.
- Usener 1939, p. 163-168
- Gevaert 1943, not. 7
- Collon-Gevaert 1951, pp. 162 et suiv., 182, 529
- De Borchgrave d’Altena 1952, p. 52
- De Montesquiou Fezansac 1953, p. 147-154
- Landais 1953, p. 140
- Swarzenski 1954, p. 102 et pl. 396
- Collon-Gevaert et Alii 1962, not. 30
- Schintzler 1962, p. 40
- De Borchgrave d’Altena 1966, p. 93-112
- Verdier 1966, p. 26 et fig. 9
- Gomez-Moreno 1968, p. 268
- Bloch 1969, p. 133
- Fillitz-Bittel-Von Euw 1969, p.
- Verdier 1970
- Gauthier 1972, no 88 et p. 130-131
- Lasko 1972, p. 299
- Pressouyre 1974 p. 67
- Renaud & Roudillon 1977, not. 106
- Chapman 1980, pp. 43-44, 58 et fig. 16
- Gaborit-Chopin 1981
- Kurmann 1981, p.
- Springer 1981, p. 196
- Gaborit-Chopin 1982, p. 305-307
- Deremble 1992, p. 742 et fig. 9
- Williamson 1995, p. 25
- Baer 2000, pp. 110 et 198
- Bourel 2004, no 78, p. 180-185
- Wittekind 2004, pp. 28, 53, 90
- Balace 2009, pp. 71, 74, 123, 276-279, 289, 298, 301, 751 n. 1715, 464