A Thousand Words
The Votive Crown of King Recceswinth
by Mary Elizabeth Podles
This extraordinarily costly and elegant object is the Crown of Recceswinth, King of the Visigoths in seventh-century Spain. The main body of the piece is a circular diadem of thirty sapphires and thirty pearls from the Far East set in golden filigree; it hangs from a rock crystal finial via openwork, heart-shaped links, and from it are suspended garnet-inlaid pendants spelling out “RECCESVINTHUS REX OFFERET” (“Recceswinth the King offered [this]”). Underneath it hangs a golden cross, also inlaid and hung with jewels. In view of such a splendid object, it is clear that we need to revise our understanding of the terms “Dark Ages” and “barbaric”; there is nothing dark, crude, or primitive about Recceswinth’s crown.
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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