Which stone would be worthy of the Queen of Heaven? Few hints. It was the favourite stone of Cleopatra. It is a stone associated with legends, royalty, love, power, and unfortunately much violence and war. Legend says that it was one of the four stones given by God to Solomon giving him extraordinary powers. It is the epitome of green as it´s the greenest of the green stones – there is the Emerald Isle of Ireland, the Emerald City of Seattle, and the Emerald Buddha of Thailand, a sacred religious icon that is actually made of green jadeite.
One of the finest and historically significant pieces of jewellery adorned with emeralds is the Crown of the Andes. It is made of 20-carat gold and 450 genuine Columbian emeralds. Christie´s expert Christopher Hartop thinks the crown evolved over time, and different elements and parts of the crown point to styles of different centuries. The largest emerald in the crown, weighing 24 carats, is known as the Atahualpa Emerald. It is reputed to have been among the stones seized by the Spanish from the Inca ruler Atahualpa in 1532. The estimated value of the crown is $3m-$5m.
The history of the crown is not only interesting, but surprising to the point of unbelievable as it has remained intact to this day throughout its many adventures and owners. The crown was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2015.
The Crown of the Andes was made in 17th century in the city of Popayan, Columbia. It was made during the course of six years by 24 Spanish goldsmiths who used Spanish and Indian techniques. It was intended for a more than life-size statue of the Virgin Mary of the Popayan cathedral. According to a legend, there was a devastating smallpox epidemic around 1590 in nearby coastal regions of Popayan. The people of Popayan were scared and prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Luckily their prayers were answered, and the epidemic avoided the city. The believers were sure that they had the Blessed Mother to thank for stopping the disease entering their city. However, there were also more rational explanations suggesting that the city remained untouched due its isolation at top of the mountains, 5700 feet (1737 m) above sea level.
A group of local noblemen, belonging to the believers clan, commissioned the crown as a sign of gratitude. Their goal was to make a crown more beautiful and valuable than any reigning monarch´s crown on earth, so that it would be worthy of the Queen of Heaven. The Coronation of the Virgin in the cathedral took place in 1599.
The crown, along with other ecclesiastical treasures of Popayan, was seen only once a year during the processions organised to celebrate Holy Week. Stories indicate that the crown was stolen twice (first by British pirates, and second time by revolutionary Simon Bolivar). Luckily the Popayans got the crown back both times. In order to keep the crown safe, the local noblemen organised a group called the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception whose duty was to protect these treasures. The treasures were divided between them, and hid separately. It is said that the crown was dismantled into six parts and divided between several guardians. And this is the way it survived into the 20th century.
In 1914 Pope Pius X granted permission for the sale of the crown, but it wasn't until 1936 that the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception found a buyer – an American businessman Warren J. Piper. Since that time it has remained in the United States. When the crown arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in December 2015, the structure of the crown had suffered due to centuries of ceremonial use, and decades of exhibition. There had also been quite a bit of reckless rental activities. For instance, the crown of the Blessed Mother had been rented out for dinner parties. I can´t help but wonder, what the original protectors of the crown, the members of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, would have thought of that.
Below: Crown of the Andes featuring as a centerpiece of a dinner, Recess Club in Cleveland, 1936.
In 1983, an earthquake struck Popayan. About 85 per cent of the the city was damaged and more than two hundred people were killed. The domes of the cathedral collapsed. After the earthquake, it appeared that the city's ecclesiastical treasures had survived, since the old Confraternity had hidden the treasures well. Or perhaps, it was the Queen of Heaven who had protected the treasures again.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
Welcome! :) My name is Monika. I am interested in beauty, art, different cultures, and good stories. I have always been fascinated with semiotics and symbols, and how people of different cultures interpret them.