The chrismon and the liturgy of dedication in Romanesque sculpture
The chrismon, the symbol based on the early Christian chi-rho monogram of Christ, is among the most intriguing yet poorly understood and contentious subjects in the study of "Romanesque" sculpture. It may be the most common symbolic subject in Romanesque art-hundreds of examples survive in the portal sculptures of southern French and northern Spanish churches-but the answers to fundamental questions about the chrismon's meaning and purpose in eleventh- and twelfth-century sculpture are disputed. A vast body of largely unconsidered evidence for the chrismon points overwhelmingly to a new answer for the old questions: the chrismon was the chief consecration mark in the doorway of the church. It was designed to receive lustration with the chrismal oils by which the bishop sanctified the entryway to the church in the liturgy of dedication, preserving in durable form the ephemeral marks, gestures, and language of the rite of consecration. This insight offers new perspective on the interactive reception of Romanesque sculpture and on the origin and purposes of the art of sculpture itself-both on its slow maturation and growth during the eleventh century out of ancient liturgical marks, including the chrismon and other "signs over the threshold," and its abiding functional connection to liturgy.
GESTA-International Center of Medieval Art
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Brown. (2017). The Chrismon and the Liturgy of Dedication in Romanesque Sculpture. Gesta (Fort Tryon Park, N.Y.), 56(2), 199–223. https://doi.org/10.1086/692803