Christian Medieval Art in Norse Greenland: Crosses and Crucifixes and their European Antecedents

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During a spectacular excavation in 1921 at the Norse farm of Herjolfsnes (Ikigaat) on the southern tip of Greenland, Poul Nørlund found 58 wooden crosses of driftwood in the graves at the site. These vary in size from c. 10 to 70 cm. Since then, more crosses have been found in other churchyards, as well as a few in a more ”profane” context in dwellings. Nearly all of these crosses are quite simple. But six of them are more elaborately carved with specific traits, which enable closer comparison with prototypes from Europe. Four crosses have Doric capital ends, which must be derived from the design of German and English crosses dating to the beginning of the 11th century and spread to Scandinavia in the 12th century. A regular crucifixion group (Calvary) has English and Norwegian antecedents dating to the mid-13th century, and a panel crucifix displays elements from a period as long c. 1200-1350, suggesting extreme lateness in style. There is nothing to stop us assuming that dissemination of influences essentially occurred through Norway and perhaps Iceland. Several stylistic traits, such as the Doric capitals, acanthus leaf and classical drapery, can be traced all the way back to classical antiquity and represent their earliest occurrence in the western hemisphere
TidsskriftScripta Islandica
Sider (fra-til)155-176
Antal sider22
StatusUdgivet - 2020