Reliquary Cross, ca. 1180
Made in Limoges, France
Silver gilt, rock crystal, glass cabochons; wood core; Overall (with tang) 11 3/4 x 4 15/16 x 1 in. (29.8 x 12.5 x 2.5 cm); Overall (without tang) 10 x 4 15/16 x 1 in. (25.4 x 12.5 x 2.5 cm)
Purchase, Michel David–Weill Gift, The Cloisters Collection, and Mme. Robert Gras Gift, in memory of Dr. Robert Gras, 2002 (2002.18)
More than sixty glass gems decorate this double-sided cross, which enshrines sacred relics from the Holy Land. Pieces of wood, believed to be from the cross on which Jesus was crucified, are framed in the rectangle at the top. Inscriptions on the sides of the arms and shaft identify the precious fragments still visible behind pieces of rock crystal: relics of several early saints, from the site of Jesus' birth, his Crucifixion, his tomb, and the tomb of Mary.
Testament to the important tradition of goldsmith's work in central France, as well as to the region's strong spiritual, cultural, and political links to the Holy Land, this reliquary cross is the only example of twelfth-century French silver in the Museum, and the only cross of this type and date outside France.