Byzantine Bronze Enkolpion Reliquary Cross

£ 1,195.00

A complete Byzantine bronze reliquary cross, known as enkolpion, featuring a hinged base and a barrel-shaped suspension loop at the top. The cross is formed of two halves, decorated with images typical of Christian iconography. To the front, the piece depicts a crucified Christ between the small figures of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He is portrayed in a stylised manner, with his arms outstretched upon the cross and his head slightly drooping to one side. He wears a collobium (a sleeveless or short-sleeved garment) with two clavi (bands), an iconographic type established in the early Christian centuries. The reverse depicts a stylised portrait of the Virgin Mary in the typical orant prayer pose. The evangelists mirror their positioning seen on the front, and their stylised busts, rendered in low relief, enrich the field around the Virgin.

Please note that the stand is for reference only.

Date: Circa 9th – 11th Century AD
Condition: Excellent condition.


Enkolpia were small pendants worn around the neck, and examples have been found tracing back to Late Antiquity. The cross shape was the most popular symbol for such amulets, as the silhouette was believed to have apotropaic qualities. Many enkolpia were designed to hold reliquaries, as can be seen here by the opening function of the pendant. The reliquary was believed to work in tandem with the talismanic qualities of the cross-shape to protect the wearer from harm and evil. Such pieces were very popular in Byzantium, and were made in an assortment of materials, from gold and silver, to bronze and lead.

To discover more about Byzantine art, please visit our relevant blog post: The Byzantine Empire, Art and Christianity.

Weight 53.4 g
Dimensions L 9.6 x W 4 x H 0.9 cm



Christian Ideology


Reference: For a similar item, please see The British Museum, item 1984,1002.4

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