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UCL | From Four Nails to Three: Abbot Suger, the Reinvention of Crucifixion Iconography, & the Cult of Passion Relics at Saint-Denis

December 16 @ 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

“From Four Nails to Three: Abbot Suger, the Reinvention of Crucifixion Iconography, and the Cult of Passion Relics at Saint-Denis”

Dr. Emily Guerry (Kent)

Hybrid Meeting: UCL, Cruciform Lecture Theatre 2 & Online- via zoom December 16th, 2021, 11:30am–1:00pm CT

The art of the Crucifixion changed dramatically throughout the long twelfth century, from the gradual disappearance of the suppedaneum supporting Christ’s feet to the increasing emphasis on the pain of his Passion. One of the most significant iconographic inventions in this period was the sudden appearance of the three-nail Crucifixion (“Dreinagelcrucifixus”), which might be linked directly to the devotional culture at the royal abbey at Saint-Denis sponsored by Abbot Suger (d. 1151). In light of the abbey’s promotion of their Holy Nail relic, supposedly gifted by Charlemagne (actually delivered by Charles II), this paper will examine the lost design and influence of its life-sized, Gothic, and gilded Christus patiens sculpture, adorned with three large sapphires, with two placed in his hands and one for both feet. Using liturgical evidence, it will explore how the former figural centrepiece of Suger’s abbey could have advertised the singular power of one of its chief cults, breaking with centuries of iconographic tradition and establishing triclavianism as a new visual motif.

Please note that there is a limited capacity on campus. If you have not selected an ‘in-person ticket’ please do not go to UCL, but join online. You are requested to wear masks at UCL.


All welcome– this seminar is free to attend but booking in advance is required.