Byzantine Part Reliquary Cross with Mary Orans

£ 150.00

A fine example of a Byzantine cross reliquary pendant, made of bronze. This item would have originally been the back piece of a reliquary cross, composed of two halves joined by a hinge and meant to be worn on a chain. On the front, Mary Theotokos is portrayed in an orant prayer pose with upraised arms and a halo shining around her head. On the top and sides, the fragment is decorated with geometrical shapes engraved in relief. All the loops are intact but the top left one, which is partly missing. The fragment is displayed in a fine golden frame, resting on a dark grey background.

The item measures circa H 4.5cm x W 2.5cm.


Date: Circa 9th – 11th Century AD
Provenance: Ex London Auction Saleroom 2000’s.
Condition: Good condition. The item comes with a custom-made frame.


SKU: MG-21 Category: Tags: , ,

Byzantine enkólpia were small reliquary pendants that would have been worn resting on the chest of their wearers – from the Greek ‘ἐν κόλπος’, ‘en kolpos’, literally translating to ‘on the chest’. Their origin is associated with pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land during the Justinian era, circa 6th century AD, and continued throughout the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period.

Byzantine jewellery was opulent and played an important social role: it was used to indicate status, but also as a diplomatic tool. The custom of wearing devotional items was derived from the Ancient Roman tradition of wearing amulets depicting mythological symbology as protection against incantations. The Church aimed to purify this belief by substituting pagan images with Christian iconography.

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

Weight 114.7 g
Dimensions W 13 x H 13 cm


Christian Ideology