Bronze Baptismal Font, Detail of Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist
Renier, de Huy, d. 1150
This image shows the basin of a baptismal font and details the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, the central scene (of five) depicted around its circumference. The basin is supported by bronze oxen arranged around a tiered, circular stone pedestal. (Originally there were 12 oxen, 10 survive. They evoke 1Kings 7.25 that describes 12 oxen supporting the 'molten sea' in Solomon's Temple.) Sometime between 1107 and 1118, archdeacon Hellion donated this font to his church, Notre-Dame-aux-Fonts (the baptistery of Liège), which stood adjacent to the cathedral, Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Lambert. Both buildings were destroyed after the French Revolution of 1789. The font was rescued and kept hidden until after the Concordat in 1804. At that time, what remained of the font was placed in the collegiate church of St. Barthélemy, where it remains in use today. (Two oxen and the basin's lid portraying prophets and apostles were lost.) This masterpiece of lost wax bronze casting is usually attributed to the Netherlandish goldsmith Renier de Huy (active 1107-1144). The five scenes ringing the font are: 1) John the Baptist preaching to merchants and soldiers, 2) John the Baptist giving the baptism of repentance while he urges his disciples to look for the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, 3) the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist with God the Father (hand descending from the clouds) proclaiming Jesus the beloved Son and the Holy Spirit (dove) resting on him, 4) Peter baptizing Cornelius the Roman centurion, 5) John the Evangelist baptizing the Greek philosopher Crato at Ephesus.
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