Eastern Europe, Russia
Post-Byzantine, Russian, Orthodox
6 3/8 × 4 1/8 × 1/8 in. (16.2 × 10.5 × 0.32 cm)
4.79 oz. (135.8 g)
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Purchased by David P. Harris from Bowater Gallery in London on June 5, 1970. At the time of purchase, the Bowater Gallery was known for its Russian icons and works of art. The directors were T.D. Benton, E. Mollo, and Marina Bowater, who was also the head of Bowater Gallery. Marina Bowater, a “Russian porcelain scholar and collector” was a private dealer from 1965-1966, before opening the Bowater Gallery in the following years. She is the author of Collecting Russian Art and Antiques (Hippocrene Books, 1991).
The gilding is worn or even lost in many areas, and the silver appears to be tarnished. Most of the loss and tarnishing is found on the side with the Crucifixion, while the side with the inscription is relatively clean. The narrow edge of the cross exhibits a mixture of gilding and tarnished silver. September 2022. - Maya Fair ('23)
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
The inscriptions, in Old Church Slavonic and Greek, on the front identify:
- Holy Trinity (upper hinge)
- The Lord’s Angels (above Crucifixion)
- Crucifixion of Christ
- Mother of God (left)
- John the Theologian (right)
- St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (below Crux)
The inscriptions, in Old Church Slavonic, on the back identify:
The Angel Baptizer (John the Baptist) and St. Theodore Tiron
And the following list of relics:
- Milk of the Theotokos
- Stone from the Burning Bush
- Relics of John Chrysostom
- Relics of Andrew of Crete
- Relics of the Martyr Theodore Tiron
- Relics of Andrew the Apostle the First-Called
- Relics of the Apostle Barnabas
- Relics of the Archdeacon Stephen
- Relics of the Holy Martyr Christina
- Relics of the Martyr Cyricus
- Stone from Holy Sion, where the Lord’s Supper was
- Stone from the place where the Lord spoke “Our Father”
- Stone from that place where the Jews beat Christ
- Stone from the grave of Lazarus where Christ resurrected Lazarus from the dead
- Wood taken from the staff of Moses
- And myrrh
- Earth from the Jordan River where he was baptized by John
This large silver-gilt cross functioned as a reliquary that could be worn around the neck. It consists of two parts hinged together: the cross and the suspension loop at the upper end. Both sides of both parts are decorated with images and inscriptions. One side of the cross features the Crucifixion, with Christ at the center, his mother Mary to the left, John the Apostle to the right, two angels above, and a bishop saint below. All figures are identified by naming inscriptions written in Old Church Slavonic. Christ’s hands are pinned to the cross, and his feet are on a slanted footstool. A small cloth wraps his hips. His head is haloed and tilted to the left, and he gazes towards the ground without any expression. The cross is mounted on a rocky landscape. The two angels above him are flipped upside down with their wings and robes stretched upwards. They have simple haloes and expressionless faces, and are smaller than the rest of the figures on the cross.
Mary, to the left, is dressed in a robe. She has a halo and wears a neutral facial expression. Her right hand is placed on her chest, and her left hand touches her face. She tilts her head downward, and turns her gaze toward Christ. John the Apostle, to the right, also wears a robe and halo. With his left hand, he gestures toward Christ, and with his right he touches his face. He tilts his head downward, gazing toward Christ's body. The bearded bishop saint, at the lower end of the cross, has a halo and wears a more elaborate robe with little diamond patterns. His left hand is raised to his chest, and his right hand clutches a book. His face is frontal, but his gaze is to the left.
The scene depicted on the upper hinged part is that of the Hospitality of Abraham. Three haloed angels sit in fancy chairs around a table set with three cups. The middle angel reaches with his left hand to one of the cups.
The other side of the cross features inscriptions, written in Old Church Slavonic, that identify the relics that are contained, or were once contained, in this reliquary. These relics include stones and other pieces of earth from sites associated with Christ’s life, including the place of his baptism, the place where he raised Lazarus from the dead, the place of the Last Supper, and the places where he was scourged and crucified. It also includes two relics associated with Moses: a stone from the place where he encountered the burning bush and a piece of wood from his staff. The cross also included various relics of other saints, including St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Stephen the Protomartyr, St. John Chrysogonos, St. Andrew of Crete, St. Theodore Tyron, and St. Christina the Martyr. The side of the cross with the Crucifixion seems to be the covering for the relic compartments inside. While this reliquary has not yet been opened at Kenyon, it is possible that the eight pins that are affixed to the perimeter secure the covering in place.
The hinged part on the side with the relic inscriptions features an angel and a saint who look out at the viewer. The angel, on the left, is haloed, wears a simple robe, and holds a cross in his right hand. The bearded saint to the right is also haloed, wears a robe, and holds up a cross in his left hand.
Maya Fair ('23) for ARHS 291 Museum Object (Fall 2022).
Purchase Receipt and Supporting Documents
2020.163_001.jpg (1236 kB)
2020.163_002.jpg (891 kB)
2020.163c.JPG (5986 kB)
2020.163d.JPG (6160 kB)