Lower Saxony (Halberstadt), 1195
The oldest work of art in the cathedral, the baptismal font greets visitors in the west of the church. In the shape of a marble chalice, it is almost timeless in its simplicity. Four lions support its base. It is unusual for a font to be made from a single block of stone, but the marble comes from Rübeland, in the Harz district, indicating that it was produced regionally.
The shape comes closest to that of the Romanesque chalices used to celebrate the Communion. It illustrates the close linguistic link between the chalice and the act of baptism in mediaeval times, when they were both known as the fons vitae or fountain of life. Acting in this way as a fountain of living waters, the font has seen thousands of baptisms across the centuries, since it was put in place by Bishop Gardolf von Harbke in 1195.