Triumphal cross

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Triumphal cross with Mary (left) and John as attendant figures in Öja Church on Gotland
Rood screen and triumphal cross in the abbey church of Wechselburg in Saxony

A triumphal cross (Latin: crux triumphalis) is a monumental crucifix that forms part of the interior decor of medieval churches. It usually hangs between the choir and the nave within a triumphal arch, the entrance arch to the choir, or stands at the same spot on a transverse beam. If the choir is separated from the church interior by a rood screen, the triumphal cross is placed on, or more rarely in front of, the screen.[1][2] Under the triumphal cross is usually the altar of the Holy Cross. The term "triumphal cross" signifies the triumph that the resurrected Jesus Christ (Christus triumphans) won over death.[3]

Changes to the image of Christ[edit]

In the Romanesque era the crucified Christ was presented as ruler and judge. Instead of a crown of thorns he wears a crown or a halo, on his feet he wears "shoes" as a sign of the ruler. He is victorious over death. His feet are parallel to each other on the wooden support ("Four nail type") and not one on top of the other.[4] The loincloth is highly stylized and falls in vertical folds.

In the transition to the Gothic style, the triumphant Christ becomes suffering Christ, the pitiful Man of Sorrows. Instead of the ruler's crown, he wears the crown of thorns, his feet are placed one above the other and are pierced with a single nail. His facial expression and posture express his pain. The wounds of the body are often dramatically portrayed. The loincloth is no longer so clearly stylized. The attendant figures Mary and John show signs of grief.[5]

Triumphal crosses with attendant figures[edit]

A triumphal cross may be surrounded by a group of people. These people may include Mary and John, the "beloved disciple" (based on John's Gospel (John 19:25-27, Matthew 27:25f, Mark 15;40f and Luke 23:49), but also apostles, angels and the benefactor.

  • The triumphal cross of the Church of Öja in Gotland stands on a transverse beam beneath the triumphal arch and is flanked by two people: Mary and John.
  • The triumphal cross in the abbey church of Wechselburg stands in an elevated position on the rood screen and also has the same pair of attendant figures.
  • The triumphal cross above the screen in Halberstadt Cathedral is not flanked by Mary and John, but by two angels.

Representative examples[edit]

Germany[edit]

Sweden[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

Footnotes and references[edit]

  1. ^ e. g. in der abbey church of Wechselburg
  2. ^ In England the name "rood screen" indicates that there is a (monumental) cross, even if the original cross has not survived.
  3. ^ Margarete Luise Goecke-Seischab/ Jörg Ohlemacher: Kirchen erkunden, Kirchen erschließen, Ernst Kaufmann, Lahr 1998, p. 232
  4. ^ Torsten Droste: Romanische Kunst in Frankreich, DuMont Kunstreiseführer, Cologne, 1992(2), pp. 32f
  5. ^ Formen der Kunst. Teil II. Die Kunst im Mittelalter, bearbeitet von Wilhelm Drixelius, Verlag M. Lurz, Munich, o.J. p. 71 and p. 88

Literature[edit]

  • Manuela Beer: Triumphkreuze des Mittelalters. Ein Beitrag zu Typus und Genese im 12. und 13. Jahrhundert. Mit einem Katalog der erhaltenen Denkmäler. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2005, ISBN 3-7954-1755-4
  • "Der Erlöser am Kreuz: Das Kruzifix", Wandelungen in der Darstellung des Kruzifixes bzw. des Triumphkreuzes

External links[edit]