Wilhelm V. and the relic theft
Agricola, Wolfgang
Imperial Cross

The imperial cross served as a reliquary for two different relics, which could be opened from the front: the Holy Lance in the cross arm, the particle of the cross beneath. The core of the cross, covered with gold plate, is made of oak wood and the interior is lined with red leather. On the front, numerous precious stones and pearls adorn the gold cross. In its appearance, the cross is reminiscent of the type of crux gemmata – i.e. a cross set with precious stones, whose function is generally not specified, but which can often appear as reliquaries, usually with a particle of the cross as a relic hidden within it (Jlich 1988, 118). On the back are various depictions in niello technique of the twelve apostles, the four evangelist symbols at the ends of the cross, as well as the Apocalyptic Lamb in the centre. On the sides there is a circumferential inscription referring to the founder, Emperor Conrad II (1024-1039): “ECCE CRUCEM DOMINI FVGIAT PARS HOSTIS INIQVI. HINC, CHVONRADE, TIBI CEDANT OMNES INIMICI” (Before this cross of the Lord may the enemy’s followers flee. Therefore, may all enemies flee before you, Conrad).
Since Constantine’s victory at the Milvian Bridge (312), the cross has been regarded as a sign of victory and as the emblem of the Roman Empire, which was further handed down under Charlemagne. Thus, the imperial cross stands for Christian triumph (Imperial Cross, n.d.).

Christ, Counter-Reformation, Holy Lance, Imperial Cross, Imperial Regalia, Nuremberg, Passion of Christ, Relic, Reliquary, S. Anne, S. Cunigunde

Date artwork
around 1024/25, dated 1325

H 92,5 x W 70,8 cm
Historical Location

Nuremberg, Heilig-Geist-Spital

Spitalgasse 16, 90403 Nürnberg

Current Location
Vienna, Kaiserliche Schatzkammer
Hofburg, Schweizerhof, 1010 Wien, Österreich
Type of Object

Media Materials
Oak core, fabric, gold plate, precious stones, antique gems, pearls; backside and sides: niello, iron pins for use as a lecture cross; foot: silver, gilded, enamel

Measurements H 92,5 x W 70,8 cm

Iconclass Number

BayHstA, GR 513/65a

Jülich 1988, 99-258;
Imperial Cross, n.d.

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