Cover of a Sacramentary
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Belgian, 1100s and later
Hammered, engraved, and gilt silver, brass, and niello


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A binding from the 1100s with several later additions majestically covers this Ottonian sacramentary from the 1000s. Although the book was written and illuminated in Germany, the binding was produced in the Mosan, a region in present-day Belgium celebrated for its medieval metalwork and enamel traditions. The cover transforms the book of parchment leaves into a jeweled relic by using the same kinds of materials generally reserved for liturgical objects and reliquaries. In the center of the cover protrudes a gilt silver Christ in Majesty. Christ sits on a throne, blessing with his right hand while holding a book in his left. The letters alpha and omega appear to either side of him. The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, they refer to a figure from the text of the Apocalypse, traditionally interpreted as Christ, who says, "I am the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end."Metalwork plaques of the evangelist's symbols occupy the corners of the cover, while angels punctuate the outer borders.