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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. 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.
Changes to the image of Christ
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. 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.
Triumphal crosses with attendant figures
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 in Schwerin Cathedral is also flanked by Mary and John. At the end of the cross' beam the Evangelist's symbols may be seen.
- In St. Mary's Church in Osnabrück there are only the empty stone pedestals of the attendant figures.
- The triumphal cross above the screen in Halberstadt Cathedral is not flanked by Mary and John, but by two angels.
- On the supporting beam of the triumphal cross in Lübeck Cathedral there is also a bishop, presumably the benefactor of the cross.
The 800 year old cross in the Church of Stenkumla on Gotland shows the origin of the name (Christus triumphans): the crucified figure wears "shoes" and a crown.
Cross from the Linde Church on Gotland (today in a Stockholm museum) also displays the symbol of a ruler, demonstrating the origin of the name
Triumphal cross of Notke in Lübeck Cathedral
Triumphal cross (Christ's side) in Doberan Minster
The "plate cross" (Scheibenkreuz) in St. Mary's (Hohnekirche) in Soest (around 1200)
- the Gero Cross in Cologne Cathedral
- the Ottonian Cross in St. Peter and Alexander's Church, Aschaffenburg
- the Helmstedt Cross in the treasure chamber of Werden Abbey
- the triumphal cross in Lübeck Cathedral from the workshop of Bernt Notke, 1477, height 17 m
- in St. Catherine's Church, Lübeck, around 1450
- in Halberstadt Cathedral
- in Wechselburg Abbey, Holy Cross basilica
- in Naumburg Cathedral
- in Doberan Minster
- in Schwerin Cathedral (from St. Mary's, Wismar)
- in Osnabrück in St. Mary's and in St. Peter's Cathedral
- in Alfeld (Leine) in St. Nicholas' Church, around 1250
- in Havelberg Cathedral, 1270/80
- in Soest, St. Maria zur Höhe, the so-called plate cross (Scheibenkreuz)
- in Haseldorf, St. Gabriel's
- in Dinslaken, St. Vincent around 1310
- On Gotland in the medieval churches of Alskog, Alva, Bro, Fide, Fröjel, Grötlingbo, Hamra, Hemse, Klinte, Lye, Öja, Rute, Stenkumla and Stenkyrka. The one at Öja is particularly lavish.
- Church of the Annunciation, Marble Arch, London
- St Augustine's, Kilburn, London
- St Gabriel's, Warwick Square, London
- Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair, London
- St Mary-le-Bow, London
- St Matthew's Church, Sheffield
- Peterborough Cathedral
- Church of St Protus and St Hyacinth, Blisland
Footnotes and references
- e. g. in der abbey church of Wechselburg
- In England the name "rood screen" indicates that there is a (monumental) cross, even if the original cross has not survived.
- Margarete Luise Goecke-Seischab/ Jörg Ohlemacher: Kirchen erkunden, Kirchen erschließen, Ernst Kaufmann, Lahr 1998, p. 232
- Torsten Droste: Romanische Kunst in Frankreich, DuMont Kunstreiseführer, Cologne, 1992(2), pp. 32f
- Formen der Kunst. Teil II. Die Kunst im Mittelalter, bearbeitet von Wilhelm Drixelius, Verlag M. Lurz, Munich, o.J. p. 71 and p. 88
- 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
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