Segment of a Crozier Shaft

Date: late 12th century

Culture: North Spanish

Medium: Elephant ivory

Dimensions: Overall: 11 5/16 x 1 3/8 in. (28.7 x 3.5 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1981

Accession Number: 1981.1


This section of an ivory staff formed part of a crosier, the principal symbol of ecclesiastical authority, once surmounted by a T-shaped cross. Four bands distinguish the sequence of scenes: at the top, Christ is enthroned within a mandorla inhabited by Elders of the Apocalypse; the enthroned Virgin and Child appear opposite. The middle registers contain standing angels dressed as deacons holding bread(?) and lamps. The lowest register shows the installation of the bishop—perhaps the one for whom the crosier was made as an emblem of his office. The richly animated drapery and technical virtuosity of this work are almost without parallel in Romanesque ivories. Originally acquired as an English or North French carving, various specific features, such as the energized style of drapery and the enriched subject—especially the unusual mandorla—point to works created along the pilgrimage road and at the shrine of Saint James at Santiago de Compostela.