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.
Byzantine Enkolpion Reliquary Cross
A Byzantine bronze enkolpion featuring a hinged base and a suspension loop for wear. The front is decorated with the incised image of Mother Mary and Child, sided by two palm leaves. Mary is displayed in the Orans position, and above her haloed head is the titular inscription ΠΑΝΑΓΙΑ, meaning “All Holy”. Depicted on the reverse is another image of Mother Mary and Child. Above her, written in Greek, is the inscription ‘Mother of God’, abbreviated from Μήτηρ (του) Θεοῦ to MH ΘΥ. Mary and Child are sided by two figures, probably St. Peter and St. John.
Condition: Very fine condition, with a beautiful green patina on the surface.