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Heinrichskreuz (Henry's Cross) from the Basel Cathedral Treasure

Unknown1st half 11th century (changed in the 14th, 15th and 19th century)

Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The local tradition according to which Emperor Henry II (r. 1002–1024) gave this gemmed cross to the Cathedral of Basel, consecrated in 1019, has now become subject of reasonable doubt. Nonetheless, the ‘Heinrichskreuz’ ranks as a masterpiece of Ottonian goldsmithing. In the Middle Ages it was the most important relic of Basel Cathedral. A Roman phalera decorates the centre of the cross. Originally a military medal, the ancient cameo takes on a new meaning on the Heinrichskreuz as a reference to Christ’s victory. The relics embedded in the cross can be seen through the four rock crystals set into the arms. To this day the cross contains particles of the True Cross, but the relic of the Holy Blood has been lost. The horizontal cross arm contains relics of Emperor Henry II, canonized in 1146. These were brought to Basel from Bamberg in 1347.

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  • Title: Heinrichskreuz (Henry's Cross) from the Basel Cathedral Treasure
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 1st half 11th century (changed in the 14th, 15th and 19th century)
  • Stylistic point of origin: Germany
  • Rights: Photo © bpk - Photo Agency / Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Hans-Joachim Bartsch │ Text © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Lothar Lambacher
  • Physical Dimensions: w46.2 x h51.2 cm
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-018417
  • Historical location: Basel Cathedral
  • Provenance: Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Type: Reliquary cross
  • External Link: http://www.smb.museum/museen-und-einrichtungen/kunstgewerbemuseum/home.html
  • Medium: Gold plate, gold filigree, silver beads, gemstones; back and frame gilt silver plate; Crucifix and Evangelist’s symbols cast and gilt silver; oak core

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