St. John the Evangelist

Aachen, Carolingian era
Elephant ivory, 7 3/16 x 3¾ in. (18.3 x 9.5 cm.)
The Cloisters, New York City, 1977.421

Dressed as in classical iconography, the saint holds a book open to the words IN PRINCIPIO ERAT VERBUM, "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1). Above the halo is his attribute, the eagle. The inscription along the top border reads, More volans aquile verbo petit astra ioannes, "By means of the flying eagle John reaches the heavens through the Word." This is based on a line from the Carmen Paschale, a poem by the fifth-century Christian writer Sedulius.

Read more about St. John the Evangelist.

Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City