Stavelot Triptych

The Stavelot Triptych is a medieval reliquary made to hold pieces of the True Cross, the cross Christ was crucified on. It was created between 1156 and 1158 by Mosan artists in modern-day Belgium. The reliquary is a three part winged shrine, and the middle part holds two smaller triptychs, one of which contains slivers of the True Cross forming a cross. The outer triptych was made by the Mosans, but the two inner triptychs are Byzantine, dating from sometime in the 11th or 12th centuries.

The medallions on the outer wings contain narrative scenes from the legends of the True Cross, with an inscription reading ‘Behold the Cross of the Lord. Let adverse parties flee. He [Christ] conquered, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah of the root of David’. The three medallions on the left tell the story of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, and the three on the right tell the story of Saint Helena’s discovery of the True Cross. The inner Byzantine triptychs have figures: Constantine, Saint Helena, archangels, the Four Evangelists, and four military saints.

The triptych is very ornate and luxurious. The reliquary is lavishly decorated, covered in gold and gems, which shows the wealth of the commissioner, who is unknown. The inner part has the two smaller triptychs held forward in high relief, making it look like it is being presented to the viewer.

The triptych shows the divergence of Eastern and Western Christian traditions. The outer triptych uses narrative storytelling and animated figures to portray Constantine, but the inner Byzantine triptychs use the traditional static, hierarchical figures.


COSAIR Online Collection Catalog. "The Stavelot Triptych." The Morgan Library & Museum

COSAIR Online Collection Catalog. Accessed March 31, 2018.


Voelkle, William M. "Stavelot Triptych." Grove Art. October 04, 2017. Accessed April 04, 2018.



Stavelot Triptych