8743

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    Byzantium Bronze Pectoral Reliquary Cross

    Constantinople (Istanbul) or possibly Anatolia, Turkey
    circa 11th century

    length: 9.5cm, width: 4.2cm, depth: 1.4cm, weight: 61g

    Reserved

    Provenance

    private collection, UK; previously with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York;

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This good-sized Byzantine pendant cross has been cast in bronze and then engraved on both sides. The cross is hinged at the top and bottom and would have opened to allow a reliquary to be kept inside. A loop at the top allowed the cross to be suspended from the neck.

    It is decorated on one side with Saint Nikolaus, arms raised in blessing, and with the inscription in Greek letters ‘O AGHOC NKOLAC’, and on the other with Saint John, also with arms raised in blessing, and the inscription ‘HOANHC’.

    A related cross is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Related crosses are illustrated in Cormack & Vassilaki (2008, p. 226).

    Such a cross was made in Constantinople and possibly among the Christian communities of Cappadocia in Central Anatolia around the 11th century when there was an intensification of the cult of the True Cross. Each pendant cross was hollow to allow a fragment of the True Cross to be kept inside. Of course not every cross could have a piece of what was deemed to be the True Cross and so other holy ‘stand-in’ items were used in place, such as a piece of fabric that might have been in contact with the body of a saint.

    The cross is in excellent, wearable condition and has a grey-green patina. It is accompanied by a small metal stand.

    Illustrated in Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World, 2017 – Vol. XXVIII.

    References

    Cormack, R. & M. Vassilaki, Byzantium 330-1453, Royal Academy of Arts, 2008.

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