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  • larabyrne

What's in a cover - The golden crosses of medieval power

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

I have had a few questions about the cover of Lotharingia, and what it is meant to represent.

Lotharingia is a tale of love, relics, and female affirmation, and I wanted the imagery to convey that while retaining authenticity.

I settled for a variation of the jewelled cross, the Lotharkreuz, the processional cross currently part of the Treasury of Aachen Cathedral. Wikipedia calls it "an outstanding example of medieval goldsmith's work, and an important monument of imperial ideology."

Despite the name Lothair's cross, it probably belonged to Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, and at its centre was a cameo of Roman Emperor Augustus. It was, in essence, a statement of political power.

A couple of generations before Matilde's birth, the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad commissioned his own jewelled cross. It became known as the Imperial Cross, which was part of the imperial coronation ritual all the way to the Haugsburg of Austria. In Lotharingia, this object, which doubled as a reliquary, belongs to Heinrich.

Although we do not have any material evidence of it, Matilde's mother, Margravine Beatrice, might have owned a similar cross. She was, after all, a Lotharingian heiress of Carolingian origin, distantly related to Lothair.

The evidence of her seal, in which she appears seated on the throne, as was typical of Holy Roman Emperors, suggests that, despite her sex, Beatrice was determined to represent herself as a ruler of imperial standing. If she had commissioned a similar object, she would have left it to Matilde, her only surviving child and heir.

I love to imagine that the daughter inherited the cross from the mother and that, in a defiant act of self-affirmation, she chose a female head as the centrepiece of the cross, replacing the cameo of Augustus with that of a Roman empress.

Lotharingia is out on Amazon on 11 June.


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