Medieval Western Europe was made out of three traditions: Classical, Judaic and Germanic, where Christianity served as a cement for what was there before and what came after. This large topaz was carved in antiquity and later framed by the Merovingian jewelers – precious stones were believed to have apotropaic qualities, warded off evil and were likely to end up in treasuries of famous cathedrals.
All Medieval jewelry had a meaning of talisman. The wedding ring, for example, was symbolically placed on three different fingers; this is why Eleanor of Aquitaine wore three of them on her right hand.
This crown displays all the properties of talisman: it is not just a victor’s wreath, the way it was understood in antiquity, but primarily a reliquary that is a repository of physical remains of holy men – their teeth, hair, nails, and pieces of bones, as well as various splinters, shreds and threads of coffins, crosses and shrouds, especially the much prized souvenir of war tourism, the True Cross from Golgotha.
This crown, which is the crown of Louis XV, was also used as a repository of precious stones — the so called jewels of the crown. Right away we feel the ambiguity of expression, for the jewels of the crown means the jewels that belong to that frame on the day of coronation and are later pried out to be worn separately, as well as all the jewels of extraordinary value that happened to touch the royal person, and are of historical significance. All that is easy enough; however, there is the third meaning that can be challenging: Did you know that even to this day the French Republic doesn’t rule in its own right, but serves as a regent to the crown?