ORPHEOS BAKKIKOS – THE MISSING CROSS
stone, engraved with the representation of a crucifixion, has been lost sinceWorld War II. At the beginning of the last century the stone was still regarded as an original, but during the1920s doubts arose concerning its authenticity due to its classification as early Christian. The disputecontinues to this day. In this study we examine previous arguments for and against the artefact’s authenticityand conclude that the aporia can be solved not by regarding the stone unilaterally as either Orphic orChristian, but by placing it back into its original historical context. The supporting argumentation leadsfrom the Roman imperial cult via the Athenian
of the second century A.D. as well as the Romanpoets and
of the Augustan era back to the funeral of Julius Caesar, where his wax effigy,which closely resembled the ‘crucified figure’ in the
engraving, was affixed to a cruciform
and shown to the people. On these grounds we establish hypotheses that explain both theapplication of the
stone as a
flamen Divi Iulii
,which has been preserved on the Papal and Patriarchal headdresses, as well as the origin of the articulatedcrucifixes, which were handed down from Antiquity and are used during the Holy Week to this day.
The quest for the stone with the inventory number 4939 from the
Early ChristianByzantine Collection
I at the Berlin Bode Museum, the former Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum,would be in vain: During World War II the stone vanished from the exhibition where ithad been on display since 1904 after its transfer to the Berlin
in 1869 as partof Eduard Gerhard’s bequest.Initially it had been embraced as one of the earliest representations of the Crucifixionof Christ—if not as the very first, because the stone had occasionally been dated to thesecond century.
But due to its peculiarity the artefact eluded all attempts at classifying itaccording to standard iconographic formulae, which hold that
camefirst, followed much later by
. So the stone was met with some doubt, andto this day the matter has been surrounded by controversy. Are we dealing with a genuinepiece from late Antiquity or with a forgery from the 17
century? It is presumedthat the object’s disappearance was precipitated by the doubts concerning its authenticityinsofar as the prevailing controversy was the reason for its removal from the exhibition.We would surely recover from the loss of a forgery, but if it was a genuine piece, wewould have lost something unique.In any case, the controversy persists: Although Mastrocinque
had painstakinglyrefuted the arguments made against its authenticity by Zahn, Reil and Maser,
© Copyright 2008 Carotta F (
: 2009/10). The authors express their gratitude to Erika Simon forher corrections and helpful suggestions. Originally published as: Carotta F with Eickenberg A. 2009. “OrfeoBáquico – La Cruz Desaparecida”.
18. No. 35. Seville. 179–217 (for the printed publication cp.also the
Leclercq 1907–53, 12.2754 (9249) s.v. “Orphée”, 6.840 (177) s.v. “Gemmes”. Cf. Dölger 1910, 1.324.
: M. Herrero de Jáuregui,
Tradición órfica y cristianismo antiguo
(Colección Estructuras y Procesos – Serie Religión), Madrid 2007.