Burgundian; French, Saint Peter, ca. 1106-1112, Limestone with traces of gesso and polychromy; 76.2 x 43.2 x 29.2 cm (30 x 17 x 11 1/2 inches), Museum Appropriation Fund 20.254
This figure of Saint Peter comes from the Third Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Cluny, the wealthiest monastery in Europe in the Middle Ages. Designed to be seen from below as part of an architectural relief, it may have been located in a spandrel over the great portal of the church’s west façade. Saint Peter was one of the patron saints of this monastic community and his image would have resonated with the monks of Cluny as a symbol of their spiritual identity. Saint Peter is characterized by long fingers extending from small palms, and by the angular, parallel folds of the drapery. He can be identified by the massive key that rests on his shoulder, a symbol of access to the heavenly kingdom and of Peter’s authority within the Roman Catholic Church.