Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Exaltation of the Cross

Folio 193r

Khosrau's Persian soldiers had captured Jerusalem and taken the fragments of the True Cross discovered there by Saint Helena (see also folio 133v). The Byzantine Emperor Heraclius succeeded in recapturing the Cross which he returned to Jerusalem, carrying it on his shoulders to Mount Calvary in 629, from which time the celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross assumed a particularly important place in the church liturgy.
The Duc d'Aumale, who gave the Très Riches Heures to the Musée Condé, and Paul Durrieu Les Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, duc de Berry, pp. 257-258) identified the two figures kneeling on the left in this miniature by the Limbourgs as the Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena, but they could also he Heraclius and his second wife, the empress Martine, who accompanied her husband on his expeditions.
On either side of the altar upon which the patriarchal cross is exhihited stand two men with flowing beards who hold long rods. One wears a very high-peaked hat and clasps a monstrance, the other seems to he counting bezants.
Encrusted with colored jewels, the cross rests on a green lizard whose tail entwines it; it is perhaps the "croix au serpent" ("snake cross") that belonged to the Duc de Berry. Three Negro monks wearing cloaks of the same color as their faces have come to adore it.
Three golden statues crown the baldachino; in the center is Moses, and flanking him, according to Durrieu, two prophets.
The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross reminds us of, in addition to Constantine and Heraclius, that highly respected ancestor of the royal family to which the Duc de Berry belonged - Saint Louis, who, barefoot, carried relics of the Cross entrusted to him.

small image (22KB) --- large image (218KB) --- Architectural details (large) (234KB) --- The patriarchal cross (large) (249KB)

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