Friday, September 12, 2014

The Gero Crucifix

Gero Crucifix
(Photo: Elya) 

The Gero Crucifix, thought to have been carved sometime around A.D. 970, is the oldest surviving crucifix of its kind produced north of the Alps. It was commissioned by Archbishop Gero of Cologne (900-976) to adorn the Cathedral of Cologne, where it has remained to the present day. The life-sized 187 cm long corpus depicts the crucified Lord (miserere nobis) with an emphasis on His suffering and death - a marked contrast to the iconography of Byzantium - and is widely considered to represent a milestone of Western iconography. The Chronicon of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg (975-1018) contains the story of a miracle associated with both Archbishop Gero and the crucifix bearing his name:
Meanwhile, Archbishop Gero of the See of Cologne died. As I have only spoken briefly about him, I will now relate a few things which I previously held back. He had a crucifix artfully made out of wood, which now stands above his grave, in the middle of the church. When he noticed a fissure in the crucifix's head, he healed it, trusting not in himself, but rather in the the healthy remedy of the Highest Artisan. He took a portion of the body of the Lord, our unique comfort in every necessity, and a part of the health-bringing cross, and placed them together in the crack. Then, prostrating himself, he tearfully invoked the name of the Lord. When he arose, he found that the damage had been healed through his humble benediction.
Containing as it does the Real Presence, the Gero Crucifix is a powerful visual presentation of Our Lord (miserere nobis) to the many thousands of pilgrims which visit Him each year.

Altar of the Gero Cross
(Photo: Frank Vincentz)

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