THE CROSS: “the thing of mine”

In 1399 the duchess of Gloucester made a bequest to her son of a cross, noting that of all her possessions, it was “the thing of mine … I have loved the best.”  Such a sentiment comes as no surprise given the preeminent place of the symbol of the cross in Christianity, but it is abundantly evident that the cross was one piece of personal adornment that was universally adopted by Christians.  It was symbol, sign, relic, prayer-aid, souvenir.  It was also jewelry, to be treasured.

Comfortable and personal, the shape of the cross lent itself to richly diverse embellishment.  Large or small, open or closed, shown with or without the body of Christ, these crosses are adorned with pearls, precious stones such as topaz and rubies, rock crystal, paste, gold filigree, and enamel.  In the end, it is clear, one’s cross is the most intimate and personal object one could own – truly art to be worn on the body, touched, fondled, embraced, or just admired.