Gunhild's Cross, c. 1110

Online lectures

Wording the Crucifixion: art, inscriptions and polemics of two Romanesque ivory crosses

  • Monday 16 November 2020
    (6-7pm --- NB: Booking closes 48 hours before the event.)
  • Lecturer: Professor Sandy Heslop


Carved crucifixes with long inscriptions are a rarity – usually the image of Christ on the Cross, whether shown triumphant or suffering, is deemed sufficient content. Two important exceptions, both made of walrus ivory, were created in the twelfth century. The earlier was commissioned c. 1110 by Gunhild, the daughter of King Sweyn Magnus of Denmark (he died 1075). Its imagery and biblical citations promote charity, especially of the wealthy to the poor. The more famous ‘Cloisters Cross’ of c. 1175 (now in New York) is more complex, emphasising the extent to which the Crucifixion was the fulfilment of prophecy. Unfortunately its place of origin is not known, but its links with Gunhild’s Cross have been acknowledged though not explored in any detail. Professor Heslop will explore how closely related both crucifixes may be.


Sandy Heslop is Professor of Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia. He has published widely on the art and architecture of medieval Europe, in various media. Current projects include a book on the Parish Churches of Medieval Norwich and another on St Anselm’s Canterbury.

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