The Golden Madonna of Essen is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. It is a wooden core covered with sheets of thin gold leaf. The piece is part of the treasury of Essen Cathedral, formerly the church of Essen Abbey, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, and is kept on display at the cathedral.
Dated around the year 980, it is both the oldest known sculpture of the Madonna and the oldest free-standing medieval sculpture north of the Alps, and is also one of the few major works of art to survive from Ottonian times. To this day it remains an object of veneration and symbol of identity for the population of the Ruhr Area. It is the only full-length survival from what appears to have been a common form of statue among the wealthiest churches and abbeys of 10th and 11th century Northern Europe; some of these were life-size, especially figures of the Crucifixion.
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