An exquisite example of Romanesque artistry, this ivory crozier—a staff similar in appearance to a shepherd’s crook that is carried by bishops as a sign of ecclesiastical office—was made in England or France c. 1150–1170 and measures about 4 by 4.5 inches. While it is unknown who carried the crozier, the magnificent carvings displaying the life of St. Nicholas lead one to assume that the official was either named for the saint or in charge of a foundation bearing his name.
The carvings depict scenes from both the lives of Jesus and St. Nicholas, including Jesus’s Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds, and the birth of Nicholas and his gift of gold to an impoverished nobleman and his daughters.
According to tradition, St. Nicholas was bishop of Myra (located in the southwest of modern Turkey) in the fourth century and has long been associated with gift-giving. As mentioned above, one particular tale involves St. Nicholas leaving three bags of money (on three different nights) for a man with three daughters whose dowries he could not pay.
The St. Nicholas Crozier currently resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.