Reliquary bust of Saint Gregory

The move to glorify black heros manifested itself widely in the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th century. St. Maurice had been restored to a place of honor in Magdeburg and what followed was a diffusion of the image toward the east and north. Cologne seemed to have resisted, going its own way and giving preference to a different historic black hero – St. Gregory the Moor.

Gregory was the leader of a division of the Roman Legion consisting exclusively of Christian Moors. He died a martyr when his entire legion was killed in Cologne by order of Diocletian. Gregory is often represented as a knight, and sometimes – as is the case with this bust by Hermann Kessel held in the Catholic Church of St. Gereon in Cologne – as a moor with turban, often holding a flag and shield.

The figure of Gregory was modeled on the black Maurice but had a much lower profile. The celebration of the three Kings and Gregory in Cologne instead of St. Maurice, signals a clear resistance to the imagery coming out of Magdeburg around the same time.

Julia Alcamo


tumblr_mx1hedTvRG1ssmm02o1_500.png

Hermann Kessel, Reliquary Bust of Saint Gregory
Germany (1683)
Polychrome and Gilded Wood, 53 cm.
Köln, Katholische Pfarrkirche St. Gereon. Treasury.


Source: The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University, available from MedievalPOC.

Advertisements