Gernrode, church of S. Cyriac, Sepulcher
Original Country
Sachsen-Anhalt (Saxony-Anhalt)
Sorting Title
Gernrode, church of S. Cyriac, Sepulcher

The holy sepulcher in the church of S. Cyriac at Gernrode. A view of the northern wall of the sepulcher.

Creation Date
1060-1080; 1130
11th c.
Style Genre
Format Medium


Original Location


Historical Context

The holy sepulcher in the church of Saint Cyriac in Gernrode is located in the southern aisle of the nave. It was created circa 1060-1080, perhaps extended and completed no later than circa 1130. Written references to the sepulcher first appear in the mid-fifteenth century. The sepulcher was presumably used in conjunction with Easter plays and processionals; one from Gernrode, dating from 1502, is still extant. On Black Friday the cross was carried to the grave and deposited within it (Depositio). On Easter morning it was raised again from the grave by the canons (Elevatio). Then followed a re-enactment of Christ and the three Marys at the Grave (the Visitatio), performed by the canons and canonesses. The performance ended with a procession. The north wall of the sepulcher depicts the symbols of the Evangelists; next to this is portrayed the journey of Peter and John to the grave. Continuing on the northern side of the sepulcher depicts the meeting between Jesus and Mary Magdalene (the Noli(te) me tangere scene). Over this scene is the (presently decapitated) figure of Christ as God the father with the book of life and his hand raised in blessing. The west wall of the sepulcher contains the most sculptural decorations. The top contains a frieze with animals, vines, fruit, and leaves; in the middle stands a female figure between two pillars, perhaps the lamenting Mary as in John 20:11 "she stood outside before the grave, weeping." In the middle of the frieze is an image of the lamb of God with a nimbus and cross to each side are depicted Moses with the laws and John the Baptist. Many of the animals depicted are symbolic representations of Christ; a Pelican and Giffon, a Lion and Stag all appear. Below them are depicted: a bear, followed by a basilica, two birds next to the tree of life, a hare and a rooster, and finally a goose (?). Sculptural reliefs also decorate the inside of the sepulcher. A large niche in the southern wall, surrounded by two pillars, probably served as the grave. In the course of expansion, this was relocated to the northern wall of the sepulcher. Two guardian angels and the three Marys are depicted around the grave opening. Across from the entrance is the sculpture of a figure with a pallium, which may be a bishop or perhaps another depiction of a triumphant Christ. The pillars seem to indicate a construction date of circa 1100.

Current Repository


Photo Credit
June Mecham
Image of Gernrode, church of S. Cyriac, Sepulcher.