Theodelinda and the Cathedral of Monza


Monza   became especially important in Italy during the Lombard domination. It was  best known as a favorite vacation spot for the most famous of the Lombard queens, Theodelinda, who was a native of Bavaria, and married King Authari in 589 AD and then the next Lombard king, Agilulf.  She wished to be on good terms with the Papacy. Indeed, thanks to the support of Pope Gregory the Great, she favored conversion of the Lombard people to Roman Catholicism.

1)            Cathedral Treasury Reliquary (also called  The Reliquary of the Tooth)

The Monza reliquary  is a “Capsa Aurea” [=chest of gold] made to contain a tooth of St. John the Baptist. It is made of gold, and  is  encrusted with pearls,  gemstones and intricate gold metalwork with  naturalistic characteristics.  In fact,  the precious braces for support  are as the bird’s leg, while other animals are perfectly sculpted at the top of this “burse-reliquary,” which dates back to the 9th century AD.  The  height of the Reliquary of the Tooth is about 25 cm.

2)            The “Iron Crown”

The “Iron Crown” is kept in the Duomo of Monza and is preserved in the so-called  “Chapel of Theodolinda.”  It consists of six curved gold plates hinged like the most sumptuous imperial crowns in the world.  The Iron Crown is encircled  by a band of iron which, according to tradition, was forged from  a nail of the cross of Christ, which was found  by St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. From the Middle Ages until the Napoleonic period, all the Kings of Italy were crowned with the “Iron Crown” of Lombardy. On the outside,  the Iron Crown was filled with varied floral motifs, decorated with enamels and precious stones. The “Iron Crown” of Lombardy dates back to the 9th century AD and has a diameter from about 14 cm. to  15 cm.

3)            Queen Theodelinda’s Votive Crown

The crown of Theodelinda  is a typical example of the  Lombard style. The Crown is made of gold leaf  and is encrusted with golden filigree and precious stones  called “cabochon,” so-named because they  were cut on the curved surfaces which show every gradation   of brilliance. The Crown of Theodelinda is a votive offering (freewill offering to the Lord God) dating from the 7th century AD, and is about 16 to 17 cm in diameter.

4)            The Cross of Adaloald

The cross of Adaloald is an episcopal cross  hung on the golden chain. It was donated to Theodelinda by Pope Gregory the Great in 603 AD for the baptism of her son  Adaloald. It is a cross of gold and rock crystal, generally  colorless and transparent quartz, which in the Middle Ages  was believed  “non-melting ice.” The imposing frontal figure of  Christ is covered by a long tunic. It seems that The Cross of Adaloald was made by  some Roman goldsmiths, while someone thought it was a notable  example of Lombard art.


5)            The Evangeliary of Theodelinda

Also the Evangeliary of Theodelinda  was donated to the Queen by Pope Gregory the Great in 603 AD. It is divided into four compartments by a cross surrounded by gems, emeralds and sapphires which are  symbols of the glory of Christ. The Evangeliary of Theodelinda  is mounted on a wooden support, with plates of pure gold, gems, pearls and oval-shaped cameos always changing colors. The Evangeliary of Theodelinda has a height of 30 centimeters, and also it seems to be a remarkable  example of the  Roman goldsmiths.






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