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Creation Date

9th–12th centuries


Eastern Mediterranean; possibly Lebanon




White steatite (soapstone) with a bronze ring


Cross only: 11/16 x 1/2 x 1/8 in. (1.8 x 1.3 x 0.3 cm)
Ring only: 3/8 in. diameter (9.5 mm)
Weight: 0.03 oz. (0.8 g)

Credit Line

Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020

Accession Number



Purchased by David P. Harris from Julia Schottlander (Tetragon) in London on March 17, 1990.


This pendant cross is engraved with concentric circles on both sides, with five circles on one side and four on the other side. There are four flower-shaped finials at the four ends of the cross, and the left and right finials are wider than the top and bottom. There are ridges and grooves in between the finials, as can be seen in the oblique view. The discoloration is greatest on the left valley between the left finial and the first ridge from the left. The bronze ring is corroded, as evidenced by the bumpy surface, and the blue strip on the end is a sign of oxidation.

This pendant cross is a Byzantine enkolpion, which is an object that was worn around the neck on the chest. Enkolpia were meant to protect the wearer from physical and spiritual harm and provide a focus for the wearers’ prayers. Enkolpia were worn by all, regardless of social class. However, since this pendant cross was hand-carved, this suggests that the wearer had a higher status. The concentric circles on both sides of the pendant cross represented mirrors that offered protection against evil. This is what gives the cross an apotropaic purpose. The practice of making pendant crosses with concentric circles was common and did not always require fine materials, as evidenced by a bronze pendant cross at the British Museum (no. 1880,0501.8). The cross's apotropaic nature imbues it with agency, as it was treated not only as protection against evil, but also as an extension of the wearer. Upon creation, the cross was given the ability to provide the wearer with spiritual protection.

Sources Consulted
Whitney Davis, "Abducting the Agency of Art," in Art's Agency and Art History, eds Robin Osborne and Jeremy Tanner (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 199–219.

Ivan Drpić, “The Enkolpion: Object, Agency, Self,” Gesta 57 (2018): 197–224.

Eunice Dauterman Maguire, Henry Maguire, and Maggie J. Duncan-Flowers, “Introduction: Designs in Context,” in Art and Holy Powers in the Early Christian House (Urbana: Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1989), 1–33.

James Whitley, “Agency in Greek Art,” in A Companion to Greek Art, eds Tyler Jo Smith and Dimitris Plantzos (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2013), 579–595.

Sydney Hogan ('24) for ARHS 110 Introduction to Western Art (Spring 2021).

2020.85.pdf (428 kB)
Purchase Receipt and Supporting Documents

2020.85 - back.jpeg (2088 kB)
Reverse view

2020.85-oblique.JPG (1300 kB)
Oblique view

2020.85-scale.JPG (4101 kB)
Scale Comparison

2020.85 - oblique 2.jpeg (1160 kB)
Oblique view

2020.85 - oblique 3.jpeg (1767 kB)
Oblique view

2020.85 - side.jpeg (910 kB)
Oblique view