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Work Binding-case

Department of Decorative Arts: Early Middle Ages

Boîte-reliure : Crucifixion

Decorative Arts
Early Middle Ages

Barbier Muriel

The Maastricht binding-case contained the manuscript on which the Dukes of Brabant took the oath in 1677. According to the inscription on it, it was probably the gift in the second half of the eleventh century of a certain Beatrice, whose identity is still uncertain. The Maastricht binding-case combines numerous gold and enamel techniques, revealing the virtuosity of the court workshops at the time of the last Ottonian emperors.

A crucifixion

The center of the cover of the binding-case is decorated with a crucifixion in repoussé work. Under a curved arch, Christ on the cross is framed by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist (at the foot of the cross) and the personification of the sun and the moon (above the cross). This type of iconography is often seen in crucifixions. The corners of the binding-case are decorated with the symbols of the Evangelists: the bull for St. Luke, the eagle for St Jean, the man for St Matthew, and the lion for St. Mark. Finally, niello-work medallions on the upper and lower strips represent St. Peter and St. Paul, and two angels. These medallions are similar in style to Mosan work but may be later reworkings. The enamel work, on the other hand, brings to mind the Alemannic area.

A conspectus of medieval enamel techniques

The binding-case is covered with much enamel work in addition to the filigrees and bezel-mounted cabochons. The above-mentioned symbols of the Evangelists alternate cloisonné (John and Mark) and champlevé enameling (Luke and Matthew). These corner plates are designed in a linear, rhythmic manner, some enlivened by dots, others by zigzags. The desired contrast between cloisonné and champlevé enameling can also be seen in the fan-shaped bezels on the sides; all of these are decorated with a gold palmette or enameling, depending on their position in the decoration. The enameler displays fairly eclectic taste and seems to have been inspired both by southern (especially for Matthew and Luke) and oriental works (for John and Mark).

Identification of the donor

The flourishing trade at Regensburg in the precious arts, and its position on the slopes of the Alps near the roads to Italy, justify the attribution of this binding-case and account for the wide range of techniques and styles employed. Furthermore, the work bears an inscription stating that it was made at the request of a certain Beatrice. Identification of the person who commissioned the work depends on its date. Some people consider that she was the wife of Frederick I of Bar (954-1011), others are of the opinion that she was the daughter of Frederick II of Lorraine (1024-34), wife of Boniface of Tuscany and then of Godefroy le Barbu, Duke of Basse-Lorraine. If it was the latter Beatrice, she would have made the gift of the binding-case on the death of Godefroy in 1069. Beatrice could also have been the daughter of Hermann II of Swabia (937-1003) and wife of Adalbert d'Eppenstein, Duke of Carinthia. Unfortunately, the incompleteness of the inscription makes it impossible to know more.


Taburet-Delahaye Elisabeth, Technique de l'émaillerie médiévale, Feuillet du Louvre n 6/08.

Kroos Renate, Der Schrein des heilingen Servatius in Maastricht und die Vier zugehörigen Reliquiare in Brüssel, Munich, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1985, p. 46-47.

Gauthier Marie-Madeleine, Émaux du Moyen Age occidental, Fribourg, Office du Livre, 1972, p. 54-56.

Technical description

  • Art ottonien

    Boîte-reliure : Crucifixion

    Première moitié du XIe siècle

    Provient du trésor de la cathédrale de Maestricht

    (Trèves ou Ratisbonne ?)

  • Or, émaux cloisonnés, nielle, cabochons ; âme de bois

    H. 39.2 cm; W. 32 cm

  • Acquisition 1795 , 1795

    Symboles des évangélistes

    MR 349

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Room 502
    Vitrine 6

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Additional information about the work