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THE JEWELRY OF THE KINGDOM OF ASTURIAS

THE JEWELRY OF THE KINGDOM OF ASTURIAS

When 1.300 years of the beginning of the kingdom of Asturias are celebrated, I want to review the beautiful and facinating jewels that marked this great moment of the history of Spain.

Among all the treasures of this time, there are three jewels that stand out singularly: the Cross of the Victory, the Cross of the Angels and the Box of the Agates, which are kept in the Holy Chamber of the Cathedral of Oviedo, built for such end by the Asturian king Alfonso II, the Chaste.

The oldest of these jewels is the Cross of the Angels, so called because its beauty without equal gave origin to a legend collected in the work of Lucas de Tuy bishop, who says that King Alfonso II wishing to donate a cross of gold and precious stones to the church of Saint Salvador of Oviedo, commissioned this invoice to two goldsmith pilgrims to whom he gave the materials and a workshop house for it. Not being the king very convince of the value of those pilgrims, he ordered to check them and when the guardians arrived to the house they observed a great brilliance that prevented them from seeing the interior and ran to call the king, who hurried to approach there, finding that the house was empty but with a beautiful cross of gold and gemstones that shone with great intensity, thinking that it was made by angels. That is because it is represented with two angels, one on each side of the foot.

                       

It is a cross of Greek style with its four arms almost identical, in each of which there is a little box to keep relics.

The oberse of the cross is decorated with filigree work and several cabochon gemstones, some of them are reused cameos from Roman times. The stone of the central disc is a cabochon garnet. Of the Roman cameos set on the cross, one of them represents a young Roman peasant woman, another the goddness Athena, another a goat's head with the body of a snake and the other to Aeneas leaving Troy.

                

The reverse features a Roman agate cameo on its central disc, surrounded by pearls and rhinestones and at each end of the arms there is a gem surrounded by small stones.

                             

                               

Also in the arms you can read an inscription in gold letters that says: "Remain in honor of God, done with complacency, Alfonso humble servant of God, offering it, anyone who presumed to take it out of where my will was dedicated, spontaneously perish with divine ray.This work was concluded in the 846th year (808 year). With this sign the pious is protected. With this sign the enemy is defeated".

The Cross of the Victory is also a pre-Romanesque reliquary cross but in Latin style, in whose central disc there is a compartment in which ancient writings affirm that a fragment of the Lignum Crucis was kept. Legend says that its soul is none other than the oak cross that Pelayo, first king of Asturias and therefore of Spain, peaked in the glorious battle of Covadonga against the Moors in 718.

The Asturian king Alfonso III the Magnum, ordered to be covered it by gold, enamels and gemstones to be donated to the nascent cathedral of Oviedo, the capital of the Asturias kingdom, in 908 year.

  

It is a large piece, measuring 920 mm. high and 720 mm. of width, being the diameter of its central disc of 140 mm. To cover it, more than 5 kilogrames of gold were used, as well as precious enamels and different gemstones.

On the back, with  a few jewelery works, four cabochon gemstones are set in each extrem and the nails that fix the gold foil to the wooden cross are hidden by florets, little spheres and amygdaloid forms.

Besides, we can read the following inscription in gold letters: "Remain this in honor of God, offered by the servants of Christ Prince Alfonso and Queen Jimena. Whoever snatched this gift of ours perishes by the divine ray. This work was completed and granted. This sign protects the pious, this sign defeats the enemy, and it was made in the castle of Gauzon in the year 42 of our reign, passing the 946th year (908 year).

Finally, the Agates Box, donated to the cathedral of Oviedo in 910 year, by Prince Fruela and his mother the Queen Jimena, wife of King Alfonso III of Asturias.

It is a cypress wood box covered by embossed gold plates with floral motifs, except the base that is solid silver. These gold plates have openings that reveal listed agates that give it the name. The sides of the box are divided into two levels whose decoration combines different gems with embossed borders.

    

The plaque placed horizontally on the lid is older than the rest, considering the possibility that it was a Frankish belt of the 8th century or a Carolingian style reliquary brooch made between the VIII and IX centuries.

This plate was decorated with 655 garnets, 4 pearls, 12 enamels and 13 cabochons, having lost part of them all over the course of the time. The polychrome enamels that are appreciated represent dragons, trees, birds, fishes, quadrupeds and reptiles.

The tetramorphs, the four symbols of the evangelists, surrounding the Cross of Victory are engraved on the silver base and the fllowing inscription can be read: "Remain this complacently done in honor of God, offered by the servers of Christ Fruela and Nunilo by nickname Jimena. This work was carried out granted to Saint Salvador of Oviedo, whoever intended to snatch this gift from us perish by the divine ray. It was made in the 948s (910 year)".

                           

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