An outstanding example of a Byzantine reliquary cross in light green, finely patinated bronze. The cross is formed of two halves, with a suspension loop at the top and hinge at the bottom. One side displays the figure of Christ on the cross. The reverse is unnamed but probably depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the Orans position.
Date: Circa 10-12th century AD Provenance: Private Mayfair, London collection, SM. Condition: Very Fine condition; a tiny hole on one side of the cross but the bronze is good and stable.
A cross of this sort, also known as an ‘enkolpion’, could be worn as a pectoral cross, and was an attribute of bishops during the Middle Ages. Over the course of the centuries, many of these crosses were produced in such a way as to hold a secondary relic. They might contain, for example, part of a saint’s clothing, pieces of the True Cross, or hair fragments. The cross was the most popular Christian symbol in Byzantium: it offered protection to the wearer and would have been available all over the Empire.
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