Plaque with Saint John the Evangelist

Date: early 9th century

Geography: Made in Aachen, Germany

Culture: Carolingian

Medium: Elephant ivory

Dimensions: Overall: 7 3/16 x 3 11/16 x 1/4 in. (18.3 x 9.4 x 0.7 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1977

Accession Number: 1977.421


During the reign of Charlemagne in the ninth century, many Carolingian artists looked to the art and culture of the past in creating new works. This ivory plaque shows the evangelist John displaying the gospel he wrote. The book is inscribed with the gospel's first line: In principio erat verbum (In the beginning was the word). John, and the eagle that is his symbol, sit under an elaborate arch, inspired by the architecture of classical antiquity. John also wears a classical pallium and mantle. On the border of the ivory plaque appears an inscription in Latin. It is based on a line from the Carmen Paschale, a poem by the fifth-century writer Sedulius.