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The ‘robed Christ’ in pre-Conquest sculptures of the Crucifixion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Elizabeth Coatsworth
Manchester Metropolitan University


In the nineteenth century, John Romilly Allen confidently claimed that the iconography of the Crucifixion with the robed or ‘fully draped’ Christ was a phenomenon of Celtic art, found in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, distinguishable from the ‘Saxon’ type in which Christ wore a loin-cloth. Other features of the Saxon type were the presence of the sun and moon above the arms of the cross, instead of angels as in Ireland; and the figures of the Virgin and St John at the foot of the cross, without the spear- and sponge-bearers, the latter pair appearing only exceptionally at Alnmouth, Northumberland; Aycliffe, County Durham; and Bradbourne, Derbyshire. Clearly two different versions were identified in this analysis, but no attempt was made to clarify the chronological relationship between the examples cited, and only the geographical distribution of a small number of examples was considered. Romilly Allen's confidence in distinguishing ‘Celt’ from ‘Saxon’ on the basis of art styles, even for the pre-Viking period, is not always shared today, as the continuing discussion of the origins of several important manuscripts shows. The terms ‘Insular’ and ‘Hiberno-Saxon’ used to describe much of the art from the sixth century to the eighth underline die perceived difficulties.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2000

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50 Above, p. 155.

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81 H. M. and Taylor, J., Anglo-Saxon Architecture, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 19651978) I, 74.Google Scholar

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84 Symons, T., ‘Regularis Concordia: History and Derivation’, Tenth Century Studies: Essays in Commemoration of the Millennium of the Council of Winchester and ‘Regularis Concordia’, ed. Parsons, D. (London, 1975), pp. 3759.Google Scholar

85 Hausherr, Der Tote Christus am Kreuz. For further examples of the style, see Wesenberg, R., Frühmittelalterliche Bildiverke. Die Schulen rheinischer Skulpture and ibre Ausstrahlung (Düsseldorf, 1973), pls. 18–21, 34 and 4889.Google Scholar

86 Coatsworth, ‘Late Pre-Conquest Sculptures’.

87 Tweddle, , South East England, pp. 213–14 and pls. 294–5.Google Scholar

88 There is another very fine architectural sculpture of the Crucifixion from this site, in which Christ, drooping in death and wearing a loincloth, is accompanied by static, dignified figures of John and Mary. The two are linked by the triangular mouldings on the cross arms, and by their function in pushing the drooping hands forward. This sculpture is important in showing strong Ottonian influence on tenth-eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon art: Coatsworth, , ‘Late pre-Conquest Sculptures’, pp. 173–5 and fig.Google Scholar

89 Tweddle, , South East England, pp. 240–1 and pl. 397.Google Scholar

90 Fisher, E. A., The Greater Anglo-Saxon Churches (London, 1962), p. 259 and fig.Google Scholar

91 Coatsworth, ‘Late pre-Conquest Sculptures’.

92 Schiller, , Iconography of Christian Art I, pls. 235 and 412.Google Scholar

93 Coatsworth, ‘Late pre-Conquest Sculptures’, pl. Ic and d.

94 Taylor, and Taylor, , Anglo-Saxon Architecture II, 628–30.Google Scholar

95 Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 183: see The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art 966–1066, ed. Backhouse, J., Turner, D. H. and Webster, L. (London, 1984), pl. 6.Google Scholar

96 Cambridge, Trinity College B. 16. 3: Temple, Anglo-SaxonManuscripts, pl. 48.

97 Owen-Crocker, G. R., Dress in Anglo-Saxon England (Manchester, 1986), pp. 139–40.Google Scholar

98 The argument in Aulén, Christus Victor, that the image of Christus victor is dominant until the eleventh or twelfth century cannot be sustained by the evidence from art. Klauser, T., A Short History of the Western Liturgy: an Account and some Reflections, trans. Halliburton, J. (London, 1969), pp. 46–7, confirms the view in Hausherr, Der Tote Christus am Kreusz that changes in interpretations of the Passion and the meaning of Christ in the Eucharist were influential in western thought from the ninth century. It is undoubted, however, that these tendencies were more strongly emphasized from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, influenced by the ideas of St Bernard of Clairvaux and St Francis.Google Scholar

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