Processional cross

Bare silver, gilded, embossed, chiselled and founding elements; remains of enamels in blue, honey-coloured and green
First quarter of the 15th century and 17th century (shaft and knop)
81 X 41 cm
Museo Arqueológico Nacional

It is a Latin cross of a fleur-de-lis profile and lobe-like plates at the four ends, held by a wooden core and is silver-plated covered, adorned with some refined, embossed, chiselled work by means of grapevine leaves laid out symmetrically at the ends and on the arms. This ornamentation, developed at the end of the 14th century and during the first quarter of the 15th century, is similar to that shown on some crosses proceeding from Catalan workshops, such as the processional cross of Torrecárcel (Teruel) and of Morella and the high processional cross of Ares (Castellón) (Madrid, Museo Nacional de las Artes Decorativas).

There are two things which increase the symbolism of the cross. On one hand, the figure of the Crucified, with the head leaned downwards in a dramatic quality style and, on the other, the plates of enamel from the arm and the transept: from right to left, respectively, we can see the Madonna Virgin and Saint John suffering and, on the plate of the transept, the representation of Christ the Saviour, on the top arm the pelican feeding its young creatures, clear allusion to the figure of Christ who feeds men with his blood and underneath the resurrection of Adam or Lazarus, which refers to the men’s redemption as a result of the blood poured by Christ for their salvation. The symbols of the four evangelists appear in the same order on the back: the eagle for John, the bull for Luke (although the inscription points to Matthew), the lion for Mark, the angel for Matthew and on the main plate The Epiphany scene can be seen.

The execution of the plates of enamels indicates its relation with the Aragonese painting of maestro de Langa’s environment from the first quarter of the 15th century, above all the images of Saint John, the Virgin and The Epiphany scene, even though the evangelists’ symbols, of greater quality, do not belong to this environment but are placed at the beginning of the 15th century. The explanation of the different origins of the models can be linked to their trade, as it has been mentioned before, in order to explain the same problem shown on the cross of Vilafranca del Cid (Castellón), with a great variety of models in the same piece of work.

The first shaft and knop were substituted in the 17th century by others with technical formulas characteristic of the contemporary gold work, in which the ribs, the shields and the silver filled with black enamel decoration replaced the original embossed, chiselled work.