The Gero Crucifix, was commissioned in 970 by Archbishop Gero for his cathedral, a monumental crucifix in size- 6”2” in height. Being that it was painted and carved out of such an organic material as oak wood, it remains to be only one of the few surviving wooden works from the Ottonian period. Similar relics of the crucifixion of Christ were often displayed and contained in smaller sized reliquaries, and would have measured in around a foot or two. So it would be safe to assume that this enormous sculpture would have been a rare and spectacular sight- one that would have astonished its viewers. Suspended above the altar in the Cathedral of Cologne, it represented the fragmented and sacrificed body of Christ- a concrete connection to the Eucharist. In addition to its formidable size, the realistic treatment of Christ reveals to the viewer- the agony, pain and suffering of the King of Kings as he contorts and hangs heavy on the cross. His belly sags with stone-dead weight, and his eyes are closed as blood pours down his forehead, as wine poured from the sacred chalice. His head dips down into his chest, as his lips and jaw hang un-hinged in a deathly grimace. The arms are stretched as muscles almost tare from his right shoulder, just as the sacrament of bread is broken and ripped. The wooden cross fuses with Christ’s flesh and skin, baring visual testament to the lamentable story of Christ’s Death and ultimate sacrifice. Focusing on the frailty and mortality of Christ ,prior to this time in Christian art, illustrations and icons would depict a Christ showcasing his humanity, serenity and divinity. That icon would highlight the mountainous heavenly riches that await the righteous and holy. Such an expression of Christ can be found in the Lindau Gospel book cover.
The Lindau Gospel cover was created in the 9th century under the rule of Charlemagne, who launched a renaissance of classical Roman art & organization. This classical tradition can be seen in how the cloth around Jesus’ waist folds and drapes. The cover of the Lindau Gospel is completely encrusted with opulent jewels, pearls and gold. All of which have particular reference to Heaven as depicted in the Book of Revelation. The positive imaging done through the gold is called “repousse”, meaning that the figure is hammered from the inside. The representation of Christ is “Carolingian”, emphasising the divinity of Christ as his expression is tranquil and undisturbed whilst he is being crucified. The peaceful and “open-arms” of Christ welcomes those who accept his divine sacrifice, and in exchange, offers eternal life.
It seems that this dogmatic representation of Christ, would have fit into the times and rule of Charlemagne. By encouraging Roman arts, culture and education, Charlemagne sought to unite all of Germanic peoples into one kingdom, converting them to Christianity at the same time. He promoted the unity and order of the old Roman Empire- thereby restoring education and trade. This embellished Christ not only was testament to Charemagnes’ renaissance campaigning, it represented the victory of Christ over Death (similar to the Dark Ages) , and the progress of an age who would embraced a new modern world. Just as the glistening young iconic representation of Jesus (as depicted in the Lindau) was a glimpse into the times- the Gero Crucifix depicted a suffering Christ, who’s emotional and spiritual reference allowed the viewer to sympathize with the human sacrifice of Christ.
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Kleiner, Fred S., and Helen Gardner. Gardner’s Art through the Ages. the Western Perspective. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. N. pag. Print.