Syria or Palestine
1.37 x 0.63 x 0.04 in. (3.49 x 0.1 x 1.6 cm)
0.12 oz. (2.6 g)
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Purchased by David P. Harris from Julia Schottlander (Tetragon) in London on October 16, 1993.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
The Greek inscription on the reverse:
These are the opening words of Psalm 91, “he who dwells in the shelter of the most high.”
This pendant features a Holy Rider, on horseback, sporting a cross-headed spear, having just killed Abyzou, a demon blamed for miscarriages and infant mortality. The Greek inscription on the reverse reads, O KATVK[ON] (Ὁ κατοικῶν). These are the opening words of Psalm 91, “he who dwells in the shelter of the most high,” which can be interpreted as the wearer being welcome in God’s kingdom and thus a benefactor of his protection. We know that the Holy Rider is meant to be the front side of the pendant as the shape of the bail, which is the loop located at the top of the pendant, is constructed in such a way that only allows the pendant to lie flat on the wearer’s chest when the Holy Rider is facing outward.
These types of pendants were mass produced from stone molds, and many exist today. The date and geographic origin of our piece is suggested by a very similar pendant at the University of Chicago (1988.57). This pendant also features an image of Holy Rider on the front and the opening verse of Psalm 91 on the back.
These Holy Rider pendants were a daily essential item meant to be worn at all times. However, they were not simply a fashion statement; they served an active purpose for all who wore them. The Holy Rider on the front provided spiritual protection to the wearer to all outside threats. Psalm 91, being pressed against the wearer’s chest, provided protection from inner demons. Lastly, the more people who wore these pendants, or similar objects, the better protected an entire city or state would be from evil.
These pendants reveal so much information about the civilization and people that it came from. We can learn about a culture that we potentially may have had no other way of doing so.
Helen C. Evans, and William D. Wixom, eds., The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997).
Alexander P. Kazhdan, ed, Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).
Asen Kirin, ed. Sacred Art, Secular Context: Objects of Art from the Byzantine Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC (Athens, GA: Georgia Museum of Art, 2005).
Eunice Dauterman Maguire, Henry Maguire, and Maggie J. Duncan-Flowers, Art and Holy Powers in the Early Christian House (Urbana: Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1989).
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.
Drew Parker ('22) for ARHS 110 Introduction to Western Art (Spring 2021).
Purchase Receipt and Supporting Materials
2020.113b.JPG (1578 kB)
2020.113-scale.JPG (4540 kB)
2020.113 - oblique 2.jpeg (1483 kB)
2020.113 - oblique 3.jpeg (1524 kB)
2020.113 - oblique 4.jpeg (1891 kB)
2020.113 - oblique.jpeg (1926 kB)
2020.113 - side.jpeg (982 kB)