Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 16 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cornelius and Cyprian
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The oldest surviving monumental sculpture of the Crucifixion is in Cologne 


Elke Wetzig | CC BY-SA 3.0

V. M. Traverso - published on 03/07/20

This life-sized depiction of the crucified Jesus is considered a milestone in Christian iconography. 

The city of Cologne, in Germany, is famous for its towering medieval cathedral. But not many Catholics may know that inside this church is preserved the oldest surviving monumental sculpture of the crucifixion to date.

Velvet | CC BY-SA 4.0

Cologne Cathedral in Germany hosts the oldest surviving monumental sculpture of the crucifixion.

Known as the “Gero cross” after the name of the Archbishop who commissioned it in the 10th century, this 6 ft x 5 ft sculpture was carved from oak, painted and partially gilded.

Not only was it the largest sculpture on this subject to be completed at the time, it was also considered the finest work out of a series of similar crucifixes that followed during the early Romanesque period. The way Jesus’ body was depicted, with his slumped head and lifeless body, evoked a sense of suffering that was missing from similar wooden crucifixes at the time. That’s probably a result of a shift in Christian teachings during the time the crucifix was completed.

Elke Wetzig | CC BY-SA 3.0

The Gero crucifix is considered a milestone for Christian iconography.

The size and emotion of the Gero crucifix bring a sense of pain and sorrow in viewers rather than triumph normally associated with earlier wooden crucifixes. For this reason, the Gero crucifix is considered a milestone in Christian iconography. The halo further underlined the holiness of Christ’s suffering.

The Gero cross is currently preserved in a chapel near the sacristy called “the Gero Cross chapel.” It has undergone restoration work to keep its vibrant colors alive, but its structure has remained faithful to its original one save for the Baroque surround, which was added in 1683.

You can visit Cologne Cathedral for free from Monday to Saturday (6 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.) and Sundays (1 p.m. -4:30 p.m.).


Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Our favorite stories of celebrities who inspire us in daily life
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
As irmãs biológicas que se tornaram freiras no instituto Iesu Communio
Francisco Veneto
The 5 biological sisters who joined the religious life in just tw...
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
Mychal Judge
John Burger
The priests of 9/11
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been known to f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.