Late antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages in mainland Europe, the Mediterranean world, the Near East. The popularization of this periodization in English has been accredited to historian Peter Brown, after the publication of his seminal work The World of Late Antiquity. Precise boundaries for the period are a continuing matter of debate, but Brown proposes a period between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD, it can be thought of as from the end of the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century to, in the East, the early Muslim conquests in the mid-7th century. In the West the end was earlier, with the start of the Early Middle Ages placed in the 6th century, or earlier on the edges of the Western Roman Empire; the Roman Empire underwent considerable social and organizational changes starting with the reign of Diocletian, who began the custom of splitting the Empire into Eastern and Western halves ruled by multiple emperors.
Beginning with Constantine the Great, Christianity was made legal in the Empire, a new capital was founded at Constantinople. Migrations of Germanic tribes disrupted Roman rule from the late 4th century onwards, culminating in the eventual collapse of the Empire in the West in 476, replaced by the so-called barbarian kingdoms; the resultant cultural fusion of Greco-Roman and Christian traditions formed the foundations of the subsequent culture of Europe. The term Spätantike "late antiquity", has been used by German-speaking historians since its popularization by Alois Riegl in the early 20th century, it was given currency in English by the writings of Peter Brown, whose survey The World of Late Antiquity revised the post-Gibbon view of a stale and ossified Classical culture, in favour of a vibrant time of renewals and beginnings, whose The Making of Late Antiquity offered a new paradigm of understanding the changes in Western culture of the time in order to confront Sir Richard Southern's The Making of the Middle Ages.
The continuities between the Roman Empire, as it was reorganized by Diocletian, the Early Middle Ages are stressed by writers who wish to emphasize that the seeds of medieval culture were developing in the Christianized empire, that they continued to do so in the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire at least until the coming of Islam. Concurrently, some migrating Germanic tribes such as the Ostrogoths and Visigoths saw themselves as perpetuating the "Roman" tradition. While the usage "Late Antiquity" suggests that the social and cultural priorities of Classical Antiquity endured throughout Europe into the Middle Ages, the usage of "Early Middle Ages" or "Early Byzantine" emphasizes a break with the classical past, the term "Migration Period" tends to de-emphasize the disruptions in the former Western Roman Empire caused by the creation of Germanic kingdoms within her borders beginning with the foedus with the Goths in Aquitania in 418; the general decline of population, technological knowledge and standards of living in Europe during this period became the archetypal example of societal collapse for writers from the Renaissance.
As a result of this decline, the relative scarcity of historical records from Europe in particular, the period from the early fifth century until the Carolingian Renaissance was referred to as the "Dark Ages". This term has been abandoned as a name for a historiographical epoch, being replaced by "Late Antiquity" in the periodization of the late West Roman Empire, the early Byzantine empire and the Early Middle Ages. One of the most important transformations in Late Antiquity was the formation and evolution of the Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism and Islam. A milestone in the rise of Christianity was the conversion of Emperor Constantine the Great in 312, as claimed by his Christian panegyrist Eusebius of Caesarea, although the sincerity of his conversion is debated. Constantine confirmed the legalization of the religion through the so-called Edict of Milan in 313, jointly issued with his rival in the East, Licinius. By the late 4th century, Emperor Theodosius the Great had made Christianity the State religion, thereby transforming the Classical Roman world, which Peter Brown characterized as "rustling with the presence of many divine spirits."Constantine I was a key figure in many important events in Christian history, as he convened and attended the first ecumenical council of bishops at Nicaea in 325, subsidized the building of churches and sanctuaries such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, involved himself in questions such as the timing of Christ's resurrection and its relation to the Passover.
The birth of Christian monasticism in the deserts of Egypt in the 3rd century, which operated outside the episcopal authority of the Church, would become so successful that by the 8th century it penetrated the Church and became the primary Christian practice. Monasticism was not the only new Christian movement to appear in late antiquity, although it had the greatest influence. Other movements notable for their unconventional practices include the Grazers, holy men who ate only grass and chained themselves up. Late Antiquity marks the decline of Roman state religion, circumscribed in degrees by edicts inspired by Christian advisors such as Eusebius to 4th century emperors, a period of dynamic religious experimentation and spirituality with many syncretic sects, some formed centuries earl
Saint Willigis was Archbishop of Mainz from 975 until his death as well as archchancellor of the Holy Roman Empire. Willigus was born in the Duchy of Saxony at Schöningen, the son of a free peasant; the able and intelligent young man received a good education, was recommended by Bishop Volkold of Meissen to the service of Emperor Otto the Great. About 971, Willigis was appointed chancellor, an office held by the emperor's brother Archbishop Bruno of Cologne; until 973 he served Otto at the height of his power. In 975 Emperor Otto II made him Archbishop of Archchancellor for Germany. Of humble origin, Willigis had to cope with many objections. Soon he started to build the great Cathedral of Mainz. Willigis demanded solid learning in his clergy too, he was known as a fluent speaker. In March 975 he received the pallium from Pope Benedict VII. In January 976 Willigis consecrated the first Bishop of Prague, Thietmar at Brumath in Alsace, whose diocese was put under his jurisdiction. At the 983 Reichstag of Verona, Otto II vested him with large territories in the Rheingau region, thereby laying the foundations for the Prince-Bishopric of Mainz.
Upon the emperor's death, Willigis as Primas Germaniae, on Christmas 983 crowned his three-year-old son Otto III Rex Romanorum at Aachen. After the Dowager Empress Theophanu died in 991, Willigis became guardian of the minor, thus making him, together with Otto's grandmother, Adelaide of Italy, de facto regent of the Empire until Otto III reached his majority in 994. In 996 he was in the retinue of the King on his journey to Italy. Together with Otto III he pushed the election of Pope Gregory V against the resistance of the Roman nobility led by Crescentius the Younger and was present at the consecration and at the synod convened a few days later. In this council Willigis urged the return of Bishop Adalbert of Prague, unable to bear the conflicts with the Vršovci noble family and the ruling Přemyslid dynasty, had left his diocese for a second time, to which, after much correspondence between the Holy See and Willigis, he had once been forced to return in 993. In 997 Pope Gregory V sent the decrees of a synod at Pavia to Willigis, "his vicar", for publication.
He was on friendly terms with Rome. These relations were somewhat disturbed by the dispute of Willigis with Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim about jurisdiction in the house of secular canonesses at Gandersheim Abbey; the immediate monastery established in 852 was situated at Brunshausen in the Diocese of Hildesheim, but was transferred to nearby Gandersheim within the territorial limits of the Archdiocese of Mainz. Both bishops claimed jurisdiction, until Pope Sylvester II declared in favour of Hildesheim, against Willigis' initial resistance, his protégé was the scholarly and just Burchard, appointed Bishop of Worms by Emperor Otto III in 1000. Upon the Emperor's early death, Archbishop Willigis on 7 June 1002 crowned the Duke of Bavaria Henry IV as King of the Romans at Mainz, after the assassination of his rival Margrave Eckard I of Meissen. Willigis presided at the 1007 synod at Frankfurt am Main, where thirty-five bishops signed the bull of Pope John XVIII for the erection of the Diocese of Bamberg.
Though Willigis has never been canonized, Roman Catholics celebrate his feast on 23 February, the day of his death in 1011. It has been alternatively given as 18 April. In his diocese he laboured by building bridges, constructing roads, fostering commerce. In Mainz he built the Cathedral and consecrated it on 29 August 1009, dedicating it in honor of St. Martin of Tours, but on the same day, disastrously, it was destroyed by fire. Willigis gave orders for reconstruction. Willigis helped the restoration of the old collegiate church of St. Victor and built that of St. Stephan, he built churches at Brunnen in Nassau and Seesbach. He showed great solicitude for the religious, aided the monasteries of St. Ferrutius at Bleidenstadt, of Disibodenberg, of Jechaburg in Thuringia; because the Cathedral had not yet been rebuilt, he was buried in the Church of St Stephan. Officium et miracula Sancti Willigisi, ed. V. I. Guerrier Wheel of Mainz Catholic Encyclopedia: Saint Willigis
Reichenau Island is an island in Lake Constance in southern Germany. It lies due west of the city of Konstanz, between the Gnadensee and the Untersee, two parts of Lake Constance. With a total land surface of 4.3 km2 and a circumference of 11 km, the island is 4.5 km long and 1.5 km wide at its greatest extent. The highest point, the Hochwart, stands some 43 m above the lake surface and 438.7 m above mean sea level. Reichenau is connected to the mainland by a causeway, completed in 1838, intersected between the ruins of Schopflen Castle and the eastern end of Reichenau Island by a 10 m -wide and 95 m long waterway, the Bruckgraben. A low road bridge allows the passage of ordinary boats but not of sailing-boats; the island was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000 because of its monastery, the Abbey of Reichenau. The abbey's Münster is dedicated to the Saint Mark. Two further churches were built on the island consecrated to Saint George and to Saints Peter and Paul; the famous artworks of Reichenau include the Ottonian murals of miracles of Christ, unique survivals from the 10th century.
The abbey's bailiff was housed in a two-storey stone building to which two more storeys of timber framing were added in the 14th century, one of the oldest timber-frame buildings in south Germany. Among the Abbey's far-flung landholdings was Reichenau, a village on the upper Rhine in the municipality of Tamins in the canton of Graubünden, named for the Abbey. Today the island is famous for its vegetable farms; the Wollmatinger Ried next to the island is a large nature reserve, a wetland area of reeds, used by many birds as a stopover during their annual migration. The Alemannic name of the island was Sindleozesauua, but it was known as Ow, Auua – Latinized as Augia also Augia felix or Augia dives, hence Richenow, Reichenau; the Benedictine Abbey of Reichenau was founded in 724 by the itinerant Saint Pirmin, said to have fled Spain ahead of the Moorish invaders, with patronage that included Charles Martel, more locally, Count Berthold of the Ahalolfinger and the Alemannian Duke Santfrid I. Pirmin's conflict with Santfrid resulted in his leaving Reichenau in 727.
Under his successor Haito the monastery began to flourish. It gained influence in the Carolingian dynasty, under Abbot Waldo of Reichenau, by educating the clerks who staffed Imperial and ducal chanceries. Abbot Reginbert of Reichenau built up the important book collection. Abbot Walahfrid Strabo, educated at Reichenau, was renowned as a poet and Latin scholar; the Abbey stood along a main north–south highway between Germany and Italy, where the lake passage eased the arduous route. The Abbey of Reichenau housed a school, a scriptorium and artists' workshop, that has a claim to having been the largest and artistically most influential centre for producing lavishly illuminated manuscripts in Europe during the late 10th and early 11th centuries known as the Reichenau School. An example of the scriptorium's production is the Pericopes of Henry II, made for the Emperor, now in Munich. Reichenau has preserved its precious relics; the Abbey reached its apex under Abbot Berno of Reichenau. During his time, important scholars, such as Hermannus Contractus and worked in Reichenau.
In the second half of the 11th century, the cultural importance of the Abbey started to wane owing to the restrictive reforms of Pope Gregory VII, to rivalry with the nearby St. Gall; when the abbey lands were secularized and the monks disbanded under Napoleon, part of Reichenau's famed library was preserved in the state library at Karlsruhe. The Geographus Bavarus and several other important documents may be found in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. Since 2001 a small community of Benedictines has been re-established at Niederzell. Burchard III, Duke of Swabia and Herman I, Duke of Swabia were buried here, as was Gerold of Vinzgau. Charles the Fat List of Merovingian monasteries Merovingian architecture Merovingian art Imperial Crown believed by some scholars to have been made for Otto I in the workshops of Reichenau. Codex Augiensis Monastic Island of Reichenau UNESCO Official Website Reichenau: monastic island History and images Reichenau Abbey Church Herbermann, Charles, ed.. "Reichenau".
Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 3 spherical panoramas of St. Georg Church Saint George in Overzell in Circulo Romanico page Abacial de Santa Maria y San Marcos in Circulo Romanico page Iglesia de San Pedro y san Pablo in Circulo Romanico
Saint Peter known as Simon Peter, Simon, or Cephas, according to the New Testament, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, leaders of the early Christian Great Church. Pope Gregory I called him the "Prince of the Apostles". According to Catholic teaching, Jesus promised Peter in the "Rock of My Church" dialogue in Matthew 16:18 a special position in the Church, he is traditionally counted as the first Bishop of Rome—or pope—and by Eastern Christian tradition as the first Patriarch of Antioch. The ancient Christian churches all venerate Peter as a major saint and as the founder of the Church of Antioch and the Roman Church, but differ in their attitudes regarding the authority of his present-day successors; the New Testament indicates that Peter's father's name was John and was from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee or Gaulanitis. His brother Andrew was an apostle. According to New Testament accounts, Peter was one of twelve apostles chosen by Jesus from his first disciples.
A fisherman, he played a leadership role and was with Jesus during events witnessed by only a few apostles, such as the Transfiguration. According to the gospels, Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, was part of Jesus's inner circle, thrice denied Jesus and wept bitterly once he realised his deed, preached on the day of Pentecost. According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero, it is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus. Tradition holds, his remains are said to be those contained in the underground Confessio of St. Peter's Basilica, where Pope Paul VI announced in 1968 the excavated discovery of a first-century Roman cemetery; every 29 June since 1736, a statue of Saint Peter in St. Peter's Basilica is adorned with papal tiara, ring of the fisherman, papal vestments, as part of the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. According to Catholic doctrine, the direct papal successor to Saint Peter is the incumbent pope Pope Francis.
Two general epistles in the New Testament are ascribed to Peter, but modern scholars reject the Petrine authorship of both. The Gospel of Mark was traditionally thought to show the influence of Peter's preaching and eyewitness memories. Several other books bearing his name—the Acts of Peter, Gospel of Peter, Preaching of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, Judgment of Peter—are considered by Christian denominations as apocryphal, are thus not included in their Bible canons. Peter's original name, as indicated in the New Testament, was "Simon" or "Simeon"; the Simon/Simeon variation has been explained as reflecting "the well-known custom among Jews at the time of giving the name of a famous patriarch or personage of the Old Testament to a male child along with a similar sounding Greek/Roman name". He was given the name כֵּיפָא in Aramaic, rendered in Greek as Κηφᾶς, whence Latin and English Cephas; the precise meaning of the Aramaic word is disputed, some saying that its usual meaning is "rock" or "crag", others saying that it means rather "stone" and in its application by Jesus to Simon, "precious stone" or "jewel", but most scholars agree that as a proper name it denotes a rough or tough character.
Both meanings, "stone" and "rock", are indicated in dictionaries of Syriac. Catholic theologian Rudolf Pesch argues that the Aramaic cepha means "stone, clump, clew" and that "rock" is only a connotation; the combined name Σίμων Πέτρος appears 19 times in the New Testament. In some Syriac documents he is called, in Simon Cephas. Peter's life story is told in the four canonical gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, New Testament letters, the non-canonical Gospel of the Hebrews and other Early Church accounts of his life and death. In the New Testament, he is among the first of the disciples called during Jesus' ministry. Peter became the first listed apostle ordained by Jesus in the early church. Peter was a fisherman in Bethsaida, he was named son of Jonah or John. The three Synoptic Gospels recount how Peter's mother-in-law was healed by Jesus at their home in Capernaum. 1 Cor. 9:5 has been taken to imply that he was married. In the Synoptic Gospels, Peter was a fisherman along with his brother and the sons of Zebedee and John.
The Gospel of John depicts Peter fishing after the resurrection of Jesus, in the story of the Catch of 153 fish. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus called Simon and his brother Andrew to be "fishers of men". A Franciscan church is built upon the traditional site of Apostle Peter's house. In Luke, Simon Peter owns the boat that Jesus uses to preach to the multitudes who were pressing on him at the shore of Lake Gennesaret. Jesu
In the past, the term lay brother and lay sister was used within some Christian religious institutes to distinguish members who were not ordained from those members who were clerics. This term is now considered controversial by some because of the history of inequality between Brothers and clerics; the term "lay" has been used in the past to designate someone as "uneducated" in contrast to "illiterate". Instead, the term "religious Brother" or "Brother" is appropriate when referring to a professed male religious, neither a priest, nor seminarian; the vocational title "Brother" is capitalized to distinguish it from the word "brother" in the sense of "a male sibling". In modern religious communities, Brothers are no longer restricted by institutional inequalities of the past and enjoy the same status and opportunities as priestly and seminarian confreres, except where sacramental ministry is concerned. Brothers today pursue academic, professional, or technical training, appropriate to their interests and skills and can be found in a variety of non-sacramental ministries.
Many Brothers study theology and philosophy to some degree, although there is a great deal of variance regarding the intensity and duration of these academic curriculums. Although religious life began with communities of desert hermits and monks in which none of the members were ordained, over time the Church began to blend monastic life with the ordained ministry. Within this context, a rigid hierarchy emerged in which the lay Brothers were restricted to ancillary roles, manual labor, other secular affairs of a monastery or friary. In contrast, the choir monks of the same monastery attended to the Liturgy of the Hours, or Opus Dei, sacramental ministry, celebration of the liturgy, formal studies; the term is used of those who are Brothers in those religious congregations which have been established since the Reformation. While taking vows particular to their religious community they have not been ordained by a bishop as deacon or priest. In this regard they are considered "lay religious," where "lay" means "non-clerical".
No such distinction existed in early Western monasticism. The majority of St. Benedict's monks were not clerics, all performed manual labour, the word conversi being used only to designate those who had received the habit late in life, to distinguish them from the oblati and nutriti. But, by the beginning of the 11th century, the time devoted to study had increased, thus a larger proportion of the monks were in Holy Orders though great numbers of illiterate persons had embraced the religious life. At the same time, it was found necessary to regulate the position of the famuli, the hired servants of the monastery, to include some of these in the monastic family. So in Italy the lay Brothers were instituted. At Cluny Abbey the manual work was relegated to paid servants, but the Carthusians, the Cistercians, the Order of Grandmont, most subsequent religious orders possessed lay Brothers, to whom they committed their secular cares. At Grandmont, the complete control of the order's property by the lay brothers led to serious disturbances, to the ruin of the order.
In England, the "Black Monks" were reported by some writers to have made but slight use of lay brothers, finding the service of paid attendants more convenient. Thus one monastic historian, Dom Taunton asserted that, "in those days in English Benedictine monasteries there were no lay brothers". On the contrary, they are mentioned in the customaries of the Abbey of St. Augustine at Canterbury and the Abbey of St. Peter at Westminster. Many lay brothers were illiterate peasants who performed the domestic or agricultural work of the community; some were skilled in artistic handicrafts, others filled administrative positions. Speaking, lay brothers roles were limited within most communities; this is not to suggest. Lay brothers were sometimes distinguished from their brethren by some difference in their habit: for instance, the Cistercian lay brother wore a brown tunic, instead of white, with the black scapular. In some orders they were required to recite daily the Little Office of Our Lady, but their labor in the fields prevented them from participating in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Lay brothers would instead pray Paters and Glorias. Lay sisters were found in most of the orders of women, their origin, like that of the lay brothers, is to be found in the necessity of providing the choir nuns with more time for the Office and study, they served as the "extern sister" of the community: the sister with the task of greeting visitors and handling relations between the cloistered nuns and th
Halo (religious iconography)
A halo is a crown of light rays, circle or disk of light that surrounds a person in art. It has been used in the iconography of many religions to indicate holy or sacred figures, has at various periods been used in images of rulers or heroes. In the sacred art of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Buddhism and Christianity, among other religions, sacred persons may be depicted with a halo in the form of a circular glow, or flames in Asian art, around the head or around the whole body—this last one is called a mandorla. Halos may be shown as any color or combination of colors, but are most depicted as golden, yellow or white when representing light or red when representing flames. Homer describes a more-than-natural light around the heads of heroes in battle. Depictions of Perseus in the act of slaying Medusa, with lines radiating from his head, appear on a white-ground toiletry box in the Louvre and on a later red-figured vase in the style of Polygnotos, ca. 450-30 BC, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
On painted wares from south Italy, radiant lines or simple haloes appear on a range of mythic figures: Lyssa, a personification of madness. The Colossus of Rhodes had his usual radiate crown. Hellenistic rulers are shown wearing radiate crowns that seem to imitate this effect. Further afield, Sumerian religious literature speaks of melam, a "brilliant, visible glamour, exuded by gods, sometimes by kings, by temples of great holiness and by gods' symbols and emblems." The halo and the aureola have been used in Indian art in Buddhist iconography where it has appeared since at least the 1st century AD. The rulers of the Kushan Empire were the earliest to give themselves haloes on their coins, the nimbus in art may have originated in Central Asia and spread both east and west. In Chinese and Japanese Buddhist art the halo has been used since the earliest periods in depicting the image of Amitabha Buddha and others. Tibetan Buddhism uses haloes and aureoles of many types, drawing from both Indian and Chinese traditions, extensively in statues and Thangka paintings of Buddhist saints such as Milarepa and Padmasambhava and deities.
Different coloured haloes have specific meanings: orange for monks, green for the Buddha and other more elevated beings, figures have both a halo for the head, another circular one for the body, the two intersecting somewhere around the head or neck. Thin lines of gold radiate outwards or inwards from the rim of the halo, sometimes a whole halo is made up of these. In India the head halo is called Prabhamandala or Siras-cakra, while the full body halo is Prabhavali. Elaborate haloes and aureoles appear in Hindu sculpture, where they tend to develop into architectural frames in which the original idea can be hard to recognise. Theravada Buddhism and Jainism did not use the halo for many centuries, but adopted it, though less than other religious groups. In Asian art, the nimbus is imagined as consisting not just of light, but of flames; this type seems to first appear in Chinese bronzes of which the earliest surviving examples date from before 450. The depiction of the flames may be formalized, as in the regular little flames on the ring aureole surrounding many Chola bronzes and other classic Hindu sculptures of divinities, or prominent, as with the more realistic flames, sometimes smoke, shown rising to a peak behind many Tibetan Buddhist depictions of the "wrathful aspect" of divinities, in Persian miniatures of the classic period.
This type is very found, on a smaller scale, in medieval Christian art. Sometimes a thin line of flames rise up from the edges of a circular halo in Buddhist examples. In Tibetan paintings the flames are shown as blown by a wind from left to right. Halos are found in Islamic art from various places and periods in Persian miniatures and Moghul and Ottoman art influenced by them. Flaming halos derived from Buddhist art surround angels, similar ones are seen around Muhammad and other sacred human figures. From the early 17th century, plainer round haloes appear in portraits of Mughal Emperors and subsequently Rajput and Sikh rulers; the Ottomans avoided using halos for the sultans, despite their title as Caliph, they are only seen on Chinese emperors if they are posing as Buddhist religious figures, as some felt entitled to do. The halo represents an aura or the glow of sanctity, conventionally drawn encircling the head, it first appeared in the culture of Hellenistic Greece and Rome related to the Zoroastrian hvarena – "glory" or "divine lustre" – which marked the Persian kings, may have been imported with Mithraism.
Though Roman paintings have disappeared, save some fresco decorations, the haloed figure remains fresh in Roman mosaics. In a 2nd-century AD Roman floor mosaic preserved at Bardo, Tunisia, a haloed Poseidon appears in his chariot drawn by hippocamps; the triton and nereid who accompany the sea-god are not haloed. In a late 2nd century AD floor mosaic from Thysdrus, El Djem, Apollo Helios is identified by his effulgent h
Cross of Otto and Mathilde
The Cross of Otto and Mathilde, Otto-Mathilda Cross, or First Cross of Mathilde is a medieval crux gemmata processional cross in the Essen Cathedral Treasury. It was used on high holidays until recently, it is named after the two persons who appear on the enamel plaque below Christ: Otto I, Duke of Swabia and Bavaria and his sister, the abbess of the Essen Abbey. They were grandchildren of the emperor Otto I and favourites of their uncle, Otto II; the cross is one of the items which demonstrate the close relationship between the Liudolfing royal house and Essen Abbey. Mathilde became Abbess of Essen in 973 and her brother died in 982, so the cross is assumed to have been made between those dates, or a year or two if it had a memorial function for Otto. Like other objects in Essen made under the patronage of Mathilde, the location of the goldsmith's workshop is uncertain, but as well as Essen itself, Cologne has been suggested, the enamel plaque may have been made separately in Trier; the cross is 29.5 centimetres wide, with a core made of oak.
It is a Latin cross, but the ends of the beams are flared, a feature found in many Ottonian jewelled crosses. Through their double ridges and triangles, the trapezoidal extensions are close to those of Cross of Lothair in Aachen, dated to around 1000; the front side of the cross is decorated with a chased gold sheet. A raised border runs around this side of the cross, with gemstones set in gold filigree and separated by pearls. A fine string of pearls borders the space; the colour and size of the stones on opposite sides match, so that the jewels appear deliberately organised and clear. On the lower end of the vertical cross beam the donation plate in cloisonné enamel depicts "Mathild Abba" and "Otto Dux", both holding a standard-like cross; the body of the suffering Christ is beaten from the gold sheet of the background plate. The bulging abdomen and the asymmetrical torso seem similar to the body of the Gero Cross in Cologne, as a result of which Cologne has been suggested as the cross's place of origin.
Trier has been considered in this regard, because the cloisonné plate on the cross might come from the workshop of Egbert, Archbishop of Trier. It is probable that only the enamel was made in Trier, that the cross was assembled in another place; the halo on Christ's head reaches to the edge of the cross, while the three gemstones of the halo further emphasise the inclination of the head to the left. Between the feet, placed on the suppedaneum, the donation plaque, there is the chased image of a snake, connected to the brazen snake of life in Numbers 21.4–9. According to another interpretation, however, it depicts a basilisk which refers to the Messiah as victor over evil in Psalm 91.13, "You will tread on the lion and the cobra. Above Christ's head there are two cloisonné plates with an inscription in three lines: IHC NA / ZARENVS / REX IVDEOR; the back side of the cross is decorated with gilt copper sheeting and has a simpler engraved design, which shows the four Evangelists on the ends of the cross beams and the lamb of God at the centre.
These images are connected by a Tree of Life. The key to the interpretation and dating of the cross is the donation plate of the cross which has remained unchanged since its creation. On this plate, Duke of Swabia and Abbess Mathilde are depicted in court dress; the clothing depicted is Sogdian silk which came to the Frankish empire only in the form of gifts from the Byzantines. Similar fabric is held in the Essen cathedral treasury for wrapping up relics. Since Mathilde was abbess in Essen from 973 and she is not shown in the costume of an abbess, it is assumed in some newer scholarship that her depiction in the court dress of a high noble indicates that she appears here as the sister of Duke Otto and not in her role as abbess. Furthermore, the absence of symbols of a duke, such as a sword or a lance, for Otto suggest that the siblings are depicted as family members and not as dignitaries. Mathilde receives a cross from her brother. Otto holds the cross with two hands, but with outstretched fingers, while Mathilde grips it with a closed fist.
Her other hand is raised up, ambiguous. This could be taken as a greeting or acceptance gesture directed at Otto or as pointing up out of the image to the crucifixion, as a mediation gesture; the donor portrait the positioning of the siblings' hands, was earlier interpreted as indicating that Otto donated the cross to the abbey which his sister oversaw as abbess. But this makes it odd that Mathilde is not depicted as abbess and that Otto is depicted without ducal insignia; the common hypothesis, advocated by von Pothmann among others, that it was a combined donation of both siblings, may not fit with the fact that the cross depicted on the donor portrait does not match the appearance of the Cross of Otto and Mathilde. This was the case in medieval donation pictures. According to newer literature the depiction of the cross being handed from Otto to Mathilde must therefore be seen symbolically with attention to the family history of the Liudolfing dynasty: with the death of Duke Otto on the 31 October 982, there were no further male descendents of Queen Eadgyth, the first wife of Emperor Otto I.
Mathilde, who had a strong sense of family, became manager of the household with his death. As the last member of this branch of the family, she was committed to maintaining the memory of the family for her brother; the donor portr