Included among the precious artefacts preserved within Milan's Grande Museo del Duomo is the Crucifix of Ariberto, owned by the Metropolitano Chapter and moved to its current position after the major renovations that, on 4 November 2013, led the museum to open its doors to the city once again .
This extraordinary piece and the masterful lighting which illuminates it, offers the thousands of visitors that visit the museum daily the opportunity to admire the Crucifix in all its beauty.
ARIBERTO DA INTIMIANO: SHEPHERD AND MAN OF ACTION
The Crucifix depicts Archbishop of Milan, Ariberto da Intimiano, at the foot of Christ's cross. Ariberto, son of Gaiardo and Belinda, born circa the year 970, was the custodian of the Chiesa di San Vincenzo in Galliano and in 1018 was elected Archbishop of Milan.
His ministry, characterized by the vigorous energy of a man of action and that of an enterprising shepherd at a particularly delicate moment in the relationship between the papacy and the empire, lasted for over thirty years, up until his death in January of the year 1045, when he was buried in the Chiesa di San Dionigi. Ariberto greatly elevated the prestige of the Ambrosian Church, defending rights and prerogatives, even in the face of political power, and rebuilt the patrimony threatened by feudal usurpations.
A man of enormous culture, up-to-date on the creations of Ottonian art, he was also a great patron of the arts, from gold work to architecture, from monumental painting to illuminated manuscripts. The Crucifix was a gift to the aforementioned church which he founded in 1023 together with the adjacent convent and hospital. With the demolition of the church in 1783, Ariberto's body, closed within its stone sarcophagus, was moved to the Duomo.
IT WASN'T THE CROSS OF THE CARROCCIO
The Crucifix of Ariberto is made of ten copper slabs, at one time gold and silver plated, mounted on a wooden cross with Gothic-style trilobate extremities dating from the era previous to that of the original metal part which was much broader.
In the Duomo since 1879 and within the Grande Museo del Duomo since 1974, it was replaced in the Cathedral by a copy, still visible and located above the sarcophagus of the great Archbishop.
In 1872 Carlo Annoni had already excluded its identification with the Cross of the Carroccio, a banner painted with the effigy of Salvatore with open arms looking down on the army from above. This was mounted on a sturdy cart which was brought onto the field during the battle against Federico Barbarossa in Legnano on 29 May 1176, so that upon seeing it the soldiers would feel comforted.
The Christ of the Crucifix of Ariberto is framed between the images of Joseph and Mary, depicted at the extremities of Jesus' hands; above, the writing “IHS (Jesus Hominum Salvator) NAZARE/NVS REX IVDEOR(VM)” is surmounted by two clipei with the figures of the moon and the sun. Christ is depicted at the moment of his death, with his head reclined and his rib cage not yet pierced by the lance.
At the foot of the cross we find Ariberto with a square halo, dressed in tunic, cloak, and pallium, depicted in the act of offering a model of a church with two towers; at the left and right of his head is the writing “ARIBERTV(S) – INDIG(NVS) ARCHI (EPISCOPVS)”. His posture is typical of Byzantine iconography, the same as the general style with strong references to the plasticism of Lombard works from the proto-Romanesque period.
The portrayal of Ariberto as the refounder of the church of San Dionigi (1037-1039), indicates a time frame that dates back to the years immediately after those affected by the dramatic events which saw him first imprisoned by Emperor Corrado II and then under attack in his own city, shortly before his transfer to Monza.