Processional Cross

Date: ca. 1150–75

Geography: Made in Asturias, Spain

Culture: Spanish

Medium: Silver, partially gilt on wood core, carved gems, jewels

Dimensions: 23 1/4 in. × 19 in. × 3 7/16 in. (59.1 × 48.3 × 8.7 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.1406


This cross, used for church processions, conveys the luxuriousness found within many of the small churches that dotted the Christian kingdoms of northern Spain during the Middle Ages. The twelfth-century Church of San Salvador, whence this cross came, stands in the remote hills fifty miles east of Oviedo, once the capital of the kingdom of Asturias. Fashioned from silver that was then gilded, the cross shows a crowned, crucified Christ flanked by the mourning Virgin and Saint John. An angel appears at the top, and the first man Adam rises from his grave at the bottom. A rock crystal above Christ's head covered a cavity meant for a now-missing relic. Gilded silver bars attached to each of the four arms of the cross served as settings for an array of gems, including antique intaglios. Most have disappeared, but two remain: one showing an ancient Victory figure and the other a male nude with a fish and spear—venerable embellishments for a sumptuous object.