Unfortunately, the vast majority of Merovingian gold work and jewellery has not survived; preserved pieces of major quality, of which Switzerland possesses a relatively large number, deserve thus our particular attention. For the moment, our knowledge of the Merovingian period in general and its gold work in particular remains sketchy, although a reawakened interest in the Early Middle Ages has led to some progress.

The particular subject of this study is a religious article, as are most of the surviving examples of Merovingian gold work. The technical quality of the decorations, the richness of the employed materials and its historical importance combine to make this a remarkable piece indeed.

It is an abbot's staff or crozier, which is thought to have been the property of the martyr saint Germanus of Trier (ca. 610-675 A.D.), first abbot of the monastery of Moutier-Grandval, a Columbanian foundation inspired by the religious organization of its motherhouse, Luxeuil.

The staff consists of a hazel stick, 119,5cm long and with a diameter varying between 2-2,4cm, curved at one extremity. Its shaft is enclosed in a sheath of silver, held in place by a series of evenly spaced silver rings which are decorated with a pattern of interlacing lines. The curved head is covered with gold sheets; stylized serpents made of filigree and cloisonné knotwork with garnet and glass insets form the main decorative elements. The cloisonné design seems to be based on the stylized representation of the heads of birds of prey, interconnected by triangles, which resemble insects with folded wings. A section of this gold ornamentation has been lost under unknown circumstances and was replaced with a piece of enamelled cloisonné; the coloured enamels are arranged in a herringbone pattern of alternatively red and green pieces.

Although recent advances in the study of early medieval jewellery have been limited, there are at least two reasons which justify a detailed reexamination of the St. Germanus crosier. 1) The last detailed studies of this object are now forty years old (Haseldoff 1955, Moosbrugger-Leu 1956). It is thus surely worthwhile to reexamine this important artefact in the light of recent discoveries, including those made in domains not directly connected to jewellery production; such varied disciplines as history, art history and archaeology, as well as various forms of modem technological analyses are used to greatly increase the available knowledge of the object. 2) The undeniable artistic and historic value of the crosier is in itself reason enough for its reevalutation : on the one hand, the quality of the gold work is truly remarkable, while, on the other hand, the object has clearly a more than regional significance: at present it seems to be the oldest known gold-decorated crosier.

While the chrono-typological classification of medieval monastic or episcopalian crosiers remains controversial, the staff of St. Germanus appears to belong to a very small group of western pre-romanic crosiers. The semi-circular curve of the crook is considered to be typical of this group; later specimens are more strongly coiled. A general examination of medieval crosiers leads to some interesting reflections on the symbolism and function of these objects, particularly as expressed by the choice of materials from which they were produced.

It is unfortunately not possible to trace the history of this object, from its supposed owner St. Germanus, to its present place in the Musee jurassien d'art et d'histoire at Delémont, in its entirety. The crosier, unlike some other contemporary objects, lacks all inscription and is not mentioned in any early medieval text; however, the considerable historical role of its supposed proprietor can be pieced together from documented events concerning either the merovingian royal family or some regional warlords. The life of St. Germanus of Trier is quite well documented, and we know both about his family connections and about his religious career: after meeting St. Arnulf, bishop of Metz, he soon joined the Columbanian monastery of Luxeuil, from whence he was sent as abbot to the new foundation of Moutier-Grandval, probably around 630-640 A.D. There is no mention of any particular crosier in his possession. The literary sources which can be directly connected to the crosier are of a much later date, the earliest being an inventory (now lost) dating to 1530, in which it is listed next to an illuminated bible, probably the famous Bible of Moutier-Grandval, which was produced in a scriptorium of Tours and is now on exhibition in the British Museum Library, London. The study of medieval sources can thus only be used to reconstruct the most probable historical and "mythical "path of the crosier after the death of St. Germanus. The analysis of the relevant sources clarifies also the important part this object played in the veneration of the saint during later centuries.

A detailed examination of the object itself has greatly expanded our understanding of its manufacture. Macro- and microscopic examination, x-ray analysis and fluorescent x-spectrometry (a powerful physicochemical metallographic analysis) were carried out by François Schweizer, director of the research laboratory of the Musée d' Art et d'Histoire of Geneva, and by his assistant, Martine Degli Agosti. This thorough investigation has led to the precise definition of the components of the crosier, whose nature has until now not been clearly established: the wooden core is of hazel, the metalwork consists of gold, partly gilded silver and gilded copper. It can be shown that the cloisonné covering the upper part of the crook is an opus inclusiorum, consisting of cold-crimped gold foil, garnets and blue and green glass chips; only the lower part of the crook is covered with a red and green enamelled cloisonné. We also learn much about the precise manufacturing processes involved, the fixation techniques used, and the relative chronology of the different elements (the identification of later additions and repositionings) can be established. Finally, this examination allows us to achieve a better understanding of the quality of the gold work and of the state of preservation of the artefact.

The scientific examination of the crosier would not have been complete without an attempt at absolute dating. In our case, a carbon-14 analysis of a sample from the preserved wooden core was the only option. The sample was analysed at the Research Laboratory of Archaeology and Art History at Oxford University. The result is a calibrated date of 608-776 A.D. with a probability of 95%, or 637-759 A.D. with a probability of 67%, the median value being 665. While this date can of course not be directly applied to the gold work enclosing the wooden shaft, it does seem to confirm the art-historical interpretation.

A partial contemporaneity of wood and metal work seems to be suggested by the stylistic and technical analysis of the crosier. The art-historical approach used in this study includes an iconographic examination, the analysis of fabrication techniques and, to a lesser degree, the provenance of used materials. As this touches on the best known aspects of such objects it is the most apt to bring the available information on the crosier into precise focus. The parallels that can be drawn to other, dated pieces of early medieval gold work or contemporary objects, found either in church treasuries or during archaeological excavations, has allowed us to narrow somewhat the age range given by the C-14 analysis to the second half, possibly the last third of the seventh century. The art- historical investigation has also led to the hypothesis that the decoration of the crosier was most probably created in a region corresponding roughly to South-western Germany today. This conclusion is partly based on the (already frequently observed) similarities between the crosier and the reliquary of Teuderic (dated to the middle of the seventh century), kept in the monastic treasury of St. Maurice d'Agaune, Switzerland. It has thus become clear that the crosier was not manufactured in the region surrounding Moutier-Grandval, and the perennially popular hypothesis that it was created by St. Eligius, either directly or in his workshop, seems also highly unlikely.

The enamelled part of the crosier remains a problem apart; the investigation demonstrates that this is a later addition to the gold work, after a part of the original decoration had been lost at an unknown period. The enamelled section was probably originally part of one (or two?) proto-medieval reliquaries, which -on technical and stylistic grounds -were not fabricated before the eighth century.

Many of the conclusions put forward in this work remain untested, and we may hope that future investigations will one day expand our knowledge of this fascinating object: the crosier of St. Germanus, art treasure and witness of regional history.

Translation: Robert Fellner