Reconstructed staff

The story of a Masterpiece – part 4

The ivory crosier of Ename is an outstanding masterpiece of Flemish Romanesque art. It probably carries a complex and rich symbolism which makes it even more special.  Therefore we have made the crosier the main subject of the Eham 1291 educational game and virtual tour.  This game is completely based upon historical facts, but we have taken the freedom to put some causal links between some facts which are not proven by any historical source.

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The repaired crosier is the main subject of the Eham 1291 game (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

For example, we know that at some point, the Ename crosier had been broken, but continued to be used as it has been meticulously repaired.  We know also that the local lord remained very long in power, not transferring the power to his son.  We link the breaking of the crosier to a quarrel between father and son, although we don’t have any historical proof of that, which is quite normal, even today this kind of information could remain under the radar.

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In the game, you need to get the repaired crosier to the abbot (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

The game is a small quest for the keys of the box, in which the crosier is brought back from the goldsmith who repaired it, and can be played in an hour by a group.  In the game, the symbolism of the crosier is briefly explained.  On the front side, Christ as Saviour (Saint Saviour) symbolises the power of the abbot over his monks.

Saint Saviour

On one side, Christ as Saint Saviour symbolises the power of the abbot over his monks (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

This symbolism is best represented by the 12th century drawing below, showing the abbot as Christ at the Last Judgement (aka Majestas Domini). The abbot is holding his staff as the symbol of this power to judge and punish monks (the knob is the the symbol for this juridical power) while the staff resembles the stick of a shepherd (that provides guidance and support for the sheep). Note the biting dragons and caged devil!

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An abbot depicted as Christ in Majesty (British Library, Arundel Ms. 91, f. 86r)

On the other side, the Bride of Christ carries a lily staff as symbol of virginity, but symbolises also the role of the abbot as caring mother, guiding and protecting his monks. At the same time, she points at the text that probably says “The Bride of Christ, trampling the neck of the dragon”.

Bride of Christ

On the other side, the Bride of Christ symbolises the care of the abbot for his monks (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

The dragon is the medieval symbol of the evil in man, so it’s very present in many medieval manuscripts.

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King David writing, influenced by the spirit of God (dove) and the evil of man (dragon) (British Library, Cotton Ms. Nero C IV, f. 46r, 1150 AD)

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This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

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Virtual Life in Ename

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Eham 1291 has animals, such as sheep and pigs, that are roaming around automatically with AI (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

In the first version of the Ename educational game – called Ename 1290 –  virtual animals where already present everywhere in the game, having some AI (artificial intelligence). One of the major improvements of the Eham 1291 game is the use of virtual humans. Although no dialogue can be started with these characters, they are influenced by the actions and decisions of the player(s) of the game.  We have introduced two kinds of interaction.

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When playing the game, you can end up at the pillory (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The first kind are cutscenes, which in fact are small real-time movies that are played out as a result of an action of the player.  For example, if the player takes a certain object that he should not take away, the player is put at the pillory for theft, resulting in game over. This not only makes the players think about the rules of a medieval world but also shows the strict social control within a medieval village and the medieval juridical system.

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Medieval open-air court and pillory (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

A guide playing this educational game with a group of children – target group for Eham 1291 are 10-12-year-olds – can expand on such aspects as other elements of justice are also visualised in the game such as the open air court benches (vierschaar).

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The Ename timber harbour shows in one scene the work flow from supply of tree trunks to transport of the timber by boat (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

In the game, such elements have been constructed in a very readable way. For example, in the timber harbour, the production of timber is shown from beginning to end, so the guides can explain it in a very visual way.

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The carpenter finishes his beam… (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

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…but reacts if you interfere with his work (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The second kind of interactions are changes in the behaviour of NPCs (non-player characters). For example, if you try to take the wooden beam the carpenter is finishing at the timber harbour, he will not only blame you for trying to take away this object, but also will give you extra information that is useful later on in the game.

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The ferryman gets you across the river Scheldt (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

You need to pay the ferryman to get over the river, but you also need to get back to the abbey to finish the game… So you need to find a way to get over the river yourself, which turns out not to be easy, so the game not only defies the knowledge and correct judgement of the children but also their ability to perform the physical action of getting over the river…

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3D digital goose ready for animation (3D model and images: Kvakling @TurboSquid)

Also animals are playing a crucial role in the game. For example, you only get free passage if you can divert the geese that block your way when leaving the abbey farm, without it you cannot finish the game.

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The animated geese at the abbey farm (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

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This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Interactive access to digital archives

In the last 5 years, many outstanding medieval manuscripts have been made accessible in a digital way, for example at national libraries such as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) or British Library.  Also the Royal Library of Belgium has digitised many outstanding manuscripts that are of paramount importance to our research for 3D virtual reconstructions (as can be seen in this blog).  One exceptional document is the Veil Rentier, a rent book describing the properties of the lord of Oudenaarde and the rent for each parcel or service (such as transport, water- and windmills). The document resides currently in the Royal Library in Brussels.

Veil Rentier

The Veil Rentier d’Audenarde, a 13th century rent book in the Royal Library of Belgium (photo: Businarias)

This medieval document, written in 1275 and updated and illustrated around 1290, is exceptional for two reasons. First of all, it contains a wealth of drawings depicting daily life, specific sites and objects (for example the market cross that we reconstructed and documented in this blog).

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Depictions of a windmill (one of the earlierst) and a watermill next to their yearly rental cost (KBR, Ms. 1175, f. 15r)

Secondly, it is a secular document from the 13th century, one of the very few that have been preserved, giving insight in the secular real estate and customs of that time.  For these two reasons, the full document has been translated in Dutch and published in 2011.

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The harbour of Oudenaarde, with the list of taxes on transported goods (KBR, Ms. 1175, ff. 11v and 12r)

As the book has been updated and illustrated around 1290, possibly in the Ename abbey, we have added the book to the Eham 1291 game, putting it on one of the desks of the scriptorium.

Veil Rentier updating

The Veil Rentier rent book in the scriptorium for updating (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

With gestures only, a museum visitor can take the book, open it, browse through it (from folio 5 to 15) and read specific parts of the text (one hears that part of the text in modern Dutch), using the available translation by Businarias.

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Reading about the taxes in the harbour of Oudenaarde in the Veil Rentier (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

In this way, we not only allow the general public to look at this outstanding manuscript and enjoy its unique illustrations, but also understand and appreciate the text, that provides an unprecendented window onto the daily live in Ename and its surroundings in 1290.  This new TimeGate application helps the museum not only to provide a better context for the museum objects and the archaeological site, but also to provide interactive and intellectual access to manuscripts in digital libraries, which are considered to appeal to experts only.

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Properties at Ogy (including a watermill) in the Veil Rentier; with text corrections (KBR, Ms. 1175, f. 98v)

As the museum visitor using this Eham 1291 application can also visit virtually a reconstructed windmill and watermill, these constructions depicted in the Veil Rentier get again an appealing and rich context.

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The reconstructed 13th century watermill, based upon French INRAP data (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

Again, these virtual reconstructions allow to bring both archaeological results and images from digital libraries to the wider public, such as the splendid depictions below of a medieval watermill in manuscript from 13th and 14th century.

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Depiction of the interior of a medieval watermill around 1225-1250 (Ms. 764, f. 44r, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford)

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Interior of a watermill around 1310-1320 (British Library, Royal Ms. 2 B VII, f. 046r)

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This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Enjoy the Ename abbey gardens in virtual reality

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The Ename abbey gardens around 1665 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

We recently made a virtual reconstruction of the Ename abbey gardens in 1665 and 1730, which is now available onlien and in multiple forms in the context of the free exhibition Old Love at the Ename Heritage Centre.

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The Ename Heritage Centre and archaeological site (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

The 3D virtual reconstruction can be superimposed on the real landscape by looking through “peep boxes” containing a transparant 3D print of the reconstruction.

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18th century peep boxes combined with 21th century VR on the 2nd floor of the Heritage Centre (photo: Veerle Delange)

Additionally, an interactive walktrough of the abbey gardens in 1665 and 1730 can be experienced with any VR headset and any tablet (and can be viewed also on any desktop).

Ename abbey gardens in 1665

Ename abbey gardens in 1665 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

Here is the 1665 tour on VR headset and tablet or desktop (for the headset version, push START on both sides before you put your smartphone in the cardboard viewer).

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Overview of the French gardens in the Ename abbey in 1730 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

And here is the 1730 tour in the new French gardens of the abbey on VR headset and tablet or desktop.

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Garden pavilion in the French gardens in 1730 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

 

The Ename market cross

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A medieval market around 1400 with market cross (BnF, Fr. 12559, f. 167r)

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A medieval wooden market cross (BnF, detail of Fr. 12559, f. 167r)

In the Middle Ages, a market cross symbolised the right of a location or community to hold a yearly trade fair. This right was granted by the king or emperor and was a source of income, as a tax – comparable to our VAT – was imposed on all goods sold. In many cases, this yearly trade fair took place on the day of the patron saint of the community.

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Market cross on a square in front of a church around 1320 (British Library, Royal 14 E III, f. 99r)

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Market cross in a village centre around 1375 (BnF, Fr. 1584, f. Er)

In most cases, this yearly market took place on the central market square in towns, or on the commons of villages, which was altered to have easy access for the large number of people attending.

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The yearly trade fair at Valkenburg (Rijksmuseum, Adriaan Van de Venne, 1618)

At the market cross, the rules of the trade fair were proclaimed, and the measures of length and weight displayed (as there were local differences).

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Medieval trade fair of Utrecht – note the market cross in the back (Rijksmuseum, C.L. van Kesteren, 19th century)

Today, there are only two market crosses preserved in Flanders, one in Sint-Lievens-Houtem and one in Ename.  The Sint-Lievens-Houtem market cross from the 15th century is still linked to the yearly market – attended by about 50 000 people – that has been declared Intangible World Heritage in 2010. From medieval sources we know that this cross had a wooden precursor, probably from 1256 onwards.

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15th century market cross of Sint-Lievens-Houtem (photo: Archeonet Vlaanderen)

Yearly trade fairs in villages were typically linked to abbeys. The Sint-Lievens-Houtem trade fair was organised by the Saint Bavo abbey of Ghent, on Nov 11 and 12, dedicated to Saint Livinus. The sphere below the cross indicates that also the count of Flanders was supporting the market (which means providing physical and juridical protection and probably getting his share of the collected tax).

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The market cross of Sint-Lievens-Houtem around 1950 (photo: Collectie Robert Coppens – Erfgoedbank Land van Rode)
(photo: Collectie Robert Coppens –
Erfgoedbank Land van Rode)

In Ename, the yearly trade fair at Saint-Laurentius day (August 10) was established around 1000, when the trade settlement was flourishing. The right to hold a yearly market was transferred to the Ename abbey in 1063 when the trade settlement was replaced by the abbey. It was a major source of income for the abbey.  When the abbey was abolished in 1795, the trade fair continued, mostly as horse market.

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Market cross of Ename, 18th century (photo: Paul Maeyaert)

With the advent of tractors, the market disappeared in the sixties, but was revived as Feeste t’Ename, with horse riding demonstrations on Sunday and a horse market on Monday.

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Horse market in Ename (photo: Eddy Berte)

Although the Ename market cross has been mentioned earlier, we only have depictions of it from 1596 onwards.  The current cross dates from 1778 (the cross itself could even be from the 19th century).  But it is quite sure that a market cross was present in the centre of Ename in the 13th century, and probable already from about 1000 onwards.

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Map of Ename in 1596, on the central square we see the market cross and probably the court benches and the pilory (National Archive, Brussels)

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Detail of a map of Ename by Jan Bale, 1661 with the market cross depicted (University Library, Ghent)

For Eham 1291 (the virtual reconstruction of Ename in 1291), we wanted to make a 3D reconstruction of the Ename market cross in that time. As a basis, we use one of the three depictions of a market cross in the Veil Rentier (illustrated around 1290), more precisely the market cross of Bauffe, which was located very close to the abbey of Cambron, today Pairi Daiza.

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Market cross of Bauffe in the Veil Rentier, around 1290 (Ms. 1175, Royal Library of Belgium)

The road from Bauffe to the abbey is still called the Rue de la Croix and the market cross is depicted along this road on the Ferraris map (around 1775).

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The market cross of Bauffe on the Ferraris map around 1775 (Royal Library of Belgium)

As it is clear that the market crosses in the Veil Rentier are made of wood and as there are no wooden market crosses preserved today (even not in museums), we have based the interpretation of the drawing from the Veil Rentier (see above) on the oldest surviving stone market crosses in Belgium, France and the UK.

14th century market cross of Heaulme, the oldest surviving market cross of France

Analysis shows for example that the flower decoration of such crosses is very typical and always situated at the end of the arms of the cross (there is no perspective yet in the Veil Rentier drawings).  We have chosen to partially paint the wood, as suggested by the Veil Rentier drawing (see above).

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Virtual reconstruction of the Ename market cross around 1290 (image: © Visual Dimension)

On one side, the cross carries the image of Saint Saviour, on the other hand the image of Our Lady, which is symbol for the double denomination of the Ename abbey.  The steps are made in the local Balegem stone.

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Detail of the reconstructed Ename market cross (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

In medieval times, the market cross would have been positioned in the middle of the commons (in analogy with other places such as Sint-Lievens-Houtem). Today the Ename market cross is located at one side of the market square, as was already the case in 1661.

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The Ename market cross around 1290, in the Eham 1291 game (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

 

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This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

3D print next to the real object

The story of a Masterpiece – part 3

When doing virtual restoration on a museum object, we try to understand the object and what happened with it.  This third blog post about the Ename crosier, a Flemish Masterpiece on display in the Ename museum in Belgium, tries to reconstruct the chronology of the events that shaped the current museum object.

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Top part of the Ename crosier, showing the Returning Christ (photo: pam Ename)

In the first blog post about this crosier, we showed in 3D how this crosier must have looked like when created around 1175 AD. Although the medieval artist, who cut this ivory masterpiece, has used some tricks to make it more sturdy, it is most probable that the the object gets broken at a certain moment between 1175 and 1390, as proven by art historian Elisabeth den Hartog.  As the object is so intricate, simply falling by accident on a hard floor could have been the cause of breaking.  Although we have no proof when this happened, we put this event in 1290 in our educational game Ename 1290.

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Side view of the Ename crosier, showing the bronze bars that keep the broken pieces together (photo: pam Ename)

The broken pieces were put together by inserting two bronze bars through the middle of the object.  To fit the lower bar, it was required to cut away the upper jaw of the dragon. The lower jaw was most probable still present.

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The dragon at the Lord side of the crosier has both upper and low jaw missing

So we think the repaired crosier looked like this. probably the crosier has been used for many more years, until a moment that it was considered too old, too worn out, and out of fashion. This moment lies probably at the end of the 14th century.

At that moment, the monks decided to bury the old staff together with a deceased abbot, most probable Gerard Ghuise who died in 1393.  His successor will have received a new staff, as the staff belongs to the abbey, not to the abbot.  From 1379 to 1385, the revolt of Ghent raged over Flanders, causing many casualties and severe economic losses.  In 1384, the last count of Flanders dies and Philip the Bold, his son-in-law and first Burgundian duke to rule Flanders, ends the revolt, restores order and revives the economy.  It is plausible that the Ename abbey could only afford a new staff for its abbot in that more prosperous time, as most of the 14th century was a very difficult period with famine (1315-1322), plagues (1346-1353) and war (1379-1385).

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An abbot is being buried together with his staff (British Library, Yates Thompson Ms. 12, f. 34v)

There is however a possible second reason.  The Ename abbey was closely linked to the count of Flanders.  It is possible that the Ename crosier was donated to the abbey by count Philip of Alsace, when the new abbey buildings were inaugurated around 1175 (see part 1 of this extended blog post).  When the Burgundian dynasty takes over in 1384, the Ename abbey has to do great efforts to establish a new relationship with the Burgundian court.  Maybe a new staff symbolised the dependency on a new dynasty. Maybe the staff was donated by the Burgundian duke to the new abbot in 1393, as in most cases the abbot was proposed by the count of Flanders, at that moment Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.

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The location of the grave of abbot Gerard Ghuise, buried in 1393 in the abbey church (image: Visual Dimension)

Nearly 200 years later, the country is turmoil.  The civil war between protestants and catholics in Flanders (1578-1592) creates extreme poverty and total lack of rule of law. Grave robbers open graves at the abbey site, to find precious metals or objects.  They find the ivory crosier, break it and toss it away as ivory cannot be melted or reused.  A possible reason for breaking the object is the presence of a golden ring above the knob, as can be seen in the example below and many other crosiers.

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The staff of Anno (Saint Servatius church, Siegburg)

When excavating the Saint Salvator church in 1995, archaeologists find the ivory crosier only a few meters away from the grave of abbot Gerard Ghuise.  In 1998, the Ename museum opens and the Ename crosier is one of the top pieces on display, supported by the TimeLine application, showing the object in all detail and telling its fascinating story.

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This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

digitally restored crosier

The story of a Masterpiece – part 2

As we have explained in the previous blog post, the  Ename crosier is the ivory head of an abbot’s staff and has been excavated in 1995 at the archaeological site of Ename, Belgium.  This outstanding object has suffered damage in several ways, so it makes sense to find out in this second blog post how the crosier looked like in its original state. A third blog post will reconstruct how it turned into its current broken state. The fourth and final blog post about this Flemish Masterpiece will talk about its symbolism and unique character.

Evangiles de Liessies

Detail from the Evangiles de Liessies (1146) showing a 12th century abbot’s staff

First of all, the crosier is only partial and has been broken, so that the staff and the part that connected this top part with the staff itself is missing.  In the publication about the crosier by Elisabeth den Hartog, the hypothesis is put forward that this staff has been buried with a deceased abbot at the end of the 14th century and has been unearthed by grave robbers at the end of the 16th century, when the abbey was in ruin and the country in state of civil war, causing massive poverty.  As the crosier cannot be in a broken state when used as a burial gift, it is plausible that the grave robbers have broken the object, causing additional deformation and damage (both hands of the Saint Saviour figure, and the lily and left hand of the lady have been broken).  Unlike gold or silver, ivory cannot be reused easily, making the object worthless for the grave robbers, who discarded it. We will expand on this in the next blog post.

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The 12th century Ename crosier, made in ivory (photo: pam Ename)

Secondly, parts of the object are corroded, due to being buried – probably in a grave – for about 400 years.  This corrosion has erased some of the interesting fine details of the crosier, such as the head of the dragon or the text on the side of the lady.

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Most of the Lady side of the Ename crosier shows corrosion of the ivory (photo: pam Ename)

Finally, the crosier must have been broken and repaired during its active use.  The two bronze bars that traverse the object horizontally have been added to keep the broken pieces together.  Unfortunately, the man who repaired the crosier had to cut away the top jaw of the dragon to make the lower bar fit.  The lower jaw must have been broken by the grave robbers. We will discuss this in the next blog post.

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The dragon has both upper and low jaws missing (photo: pam Ename)

Some years ago, the crosier was 3D laser scanned in high resolution. Assessment of the 3D data shows a resolution of about 50 micrometer, 1/20 of a millimeter. Based on this 3D scan, we have decided to perform a digital restoration of the crosier, to be used in Eham 1291 (the new version of the Ename 1290 educational game) but also to be 3D printed for the educational department.

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The highly detailed 3D scan of both sides of the crosier (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

Digital restoration is a form of virtual reconstruction and tries to show how an object looked like in its original state and how it was probably used.  In digital restoration, we try to unravel the many clues that are hidden in the object itself, but also look at similar objects, at the time period it was made and used and at the alterations that were made.  We collected about 200 similar medieval crosiers and about 500 images from medieval manuscripts to base our reconstruction on. Here is the result, in 3D, and how we did it.  Use the annotation bar at the bottom to get a guided tour through the applied restorations

Most of the digital restoration of the broken parts (cracks, broken wrists, lily staff, corrosion) and the repair (removal of the bronze bars) is quite straight forward.  The lily staff for example, which is the medieval symbol of virginity, can be seen depicted in medieval manuscripts.  The hard parts are the restoration of the text on the lady side, the dragon and the missing part of the crosier that connects it with the staff.

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The bride of Christ with the lily staff as symbol of virginity (Yale MS 404, f50r, ca. 1300)

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The bride of Christ holding the lily staff as symbol of virginity (image:Visual Dimension bvba)

The interpretation that the lady is the “bride of Christ” and not our Lady is taken from the above mentioned text by Elisabeth den Hartog.

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Macro image with large depth of field through image stacking showing the text on the lady side (photos: pam Ename, image processing: Visual Dimension bvba)

The text on the Lord side is intact and nearly complete, it reads

+AN(IM)O IH(ES)U SERPENS CALCAT(UR) INIQU(ITATIS)

which means “Through the spirit of Jesus, the snake of the evil is being trampled” (text between round brackets is typically omitted in medieval writing).

The digital restoration of the text on the Lady side does require an optimal interpretation of the object (based upon the 3D scan) and its symbolism (based upon the detailed art history study).  In the publication by Elisabeth den Hartog, the inscription is interpreted as

… CHR(IST)I CALCANTIS MALA D[ELENTUR]

based upon photographs of the objects (text between square brackets is an interpretation).  The 3D scan (see above) and a detailed study of the real object, including focus stacking macro photographs of the text area, however revealed that MALA needs to be read as COLLA, so the text can be interpreted as

[SP(ON)SA] CHR(ISTI) CALCANTIS COLLA DR[AC(ONIS)]

which can be translated as “The bride of Christ, trampling the neck of the dragon”

digitally restored crosier

Both sides of the digitally restored crosier, showing the reconstructed text (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

For the restoration of  the dragon, we found multiple evidence in the 3D model that the dragon is biting the crosier, so that the neck of the dragon is well connected to the vertical part, providing the object some sturdiness and making the cutting of the ivory feasible (i.e. reducing the risk of breaking while cutting).

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Design of the missing parts of the dragon, providing sturdiness and feasibility (imge: Visual Dimension bvba)

There is plenty of medieval iconography that shows dragons and biting dragons, giving hints towards the digital restoration.  To have a sufficient contact surface of the lower jaw with the vertical shaft, we have given the dragon a beard, as can be seen in many medieval depictions of dragons.

Harley Ms. 628, f. 101v (British Library)

Illuminated capital in Harley Ms. 628, f. 101v (British Library)

Bearded dragon MET

Bearded dragon on a German 13th century crosier (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY)

Comparison with the large set of crosier images showed that the missing part of the crosier follows the curved line, putting the decoration of the crosier at an angle to the vertical line of the staff.

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Initial (left) and final (right) design of the missing part of the crosier (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

From iconography and preserved staffs, we know that the complete staff was about 180 cm high, ending in a metal point.

Two abbots with their staff

Two abbots with their staff (Moralia in Job – 1110 – Bibliothèque municipal de Dijon)

We have no information if the staff itself was in wood or in ivory, both alternatives are possible, so we presume the staff to be in wood.  We have gold-plated some parts as this was a common practice in the Middle Ages for ivory crosiers.  XRF measurements could tell us if gold was applied on the object, but such measurements are not available yet.

Reconstructed staff

Reconstructed staff with iron pin at the end (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The final result was 3D printed in polyamide on scale 1/1 so that it could be mounted on a wooden stick, for the educational department.  The digital restoration was performed through digital sculpting by Ewout De Vos for Visual Dimension bvba.

3D print next to the real object

Ewout De Vos holding the digitally restored crosier next to the real object (photo: Visual Dimension bvba)

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This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.