Height: 56.900 cm
Bequeathed by Charles Borradaile
Room 40: Medieval Europe
Medieval, around AD
Honouring a loyal subject
The cross consists of silver plaques arranged on a wooden core. They are decorated with gilding and translucent enamels. The enamels surrounding the figure of Christ depict Christ in Majesty (at the top), the Virgin and St John the Evangelist (at each side) and the figure of Adam rising from his tomb (at the bottom). On the back are represented the Lamb of God and the four symbols of the Evangelists. Smaller quatrefoils of stylized floral motifs and birds are arranged intermittently along the arms and body of the cross.
The coat of arms of Hungary and the insignia of the Hédervári family appear around the six-sided knop at the foot of the cross. The cross may have been made to commemorate the death of Desso Hédervári whose heroic sacrifice in 1330 saved the life of Charles I (1288-1342), king of Hungary. Desso dressed in the king's armour, allowing Charles to escape a Romanian ambush.
The Italian character of the enamels has led to suggestions that the cross was made by a Sienese goldsmith, Peter Gallicus, who was working at the Hungarian court in the 1330s. The enamels were certainly executed by an artist with a detailed knowledge of Italian techniques.
J. Robinson, Masterpieces: Medieval Art (London, British Museum Press, 2008)
S. Mihalik, Old Hungarian enamels (Budapest, 1961)