Pendant Reliquary Cross with the Crucifixion and the Mother of God
Made entirely of bronze, this pendant consists of two sides—originally connected by a hinge, now broken—that come together to create a hollow container. This cross was worn over the chest, and it is a..more »
Made entirely of bronze, this pendant consists of two sides—originally connected by a hinge, now broken—that come together to create a hollow container. This cross was worn over the chest, and it is a clear example of a common type of accessory that was used by a variety of Byzantine citizens as a reliquary, or a container for a holy relic, such as a piece of a saint’s bone or any other religiously significant object. One side bears a relief of the scene of the Crucifixion, with St. John and the Virgin Mary on either side of Christ, and the three following inscriptions: 1. On the upper arm of the cross: ΦC, (Φῶς, “Light”). 2. On the left arm of the cross: ΙΔΕΟΥΟΣΟΥ (ἴδε ὁ υἱός σου, "Behold, your son," John 19:26). 3. On the right arm of the cross: ΙΔΟΥΗ[...]ΣΟΥ (Ἰδοὺ ἡ μήτηρ σου, "Behold, your mother," John 19:27). The other side bears a relief of the Mother of God surrounded by portraits of the Four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the men attributed to the first four books of the New Testament. This cross is nearly identical to a bronze reliquary cross featured in the exhibition The Glory of Byzantium (no. 119) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Crosses of this type were produced in urban centers of the empire, many with similar iconographic compositions. The material of these objects, copper alloy, suggests that they were likely purchased by common Byzantine citizens from local artisans, made from a common stone mold. Because there are so many surviving examples of reliquary crosses that resemble—both in function and in form—the cross in the Blick-Harris Study Collection, the type of holy relic that they contained was likely not something as prestigious as fragments of the True Cross or of bones of those religiously revered, but instead secondary relics, like stones or other small objects that came in contact with the foremost objects. However, the commonality of both the cross and the relic-type does not diminish the personal identification that these items would have provided. The wearer probably felt a connection to the Empire and its societal authorities (both living and iconographic) at all times of display, perhaps especially during higher religious periods of the imperial calendar. These crosses served as markers of faithful citizens of the Empire who relied heavily on their loyalty and belief, both to their state and to their heritage. Sources Consulted Alexis Castor, "Etruscan Jewelry and Identity," in A Companion to the Etruscans, eds. Sinclair Bell, and Alexandra A. Carpino (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2016), 275–292. 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). R. Martin Harrison, ed., Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul, Volume 1, The excavations, structures, architectural decoration, small finds, coins, bones, and molluscs (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986). R. Martin Harrison, Nezih Firatli, and John W. Hayes, "Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul: Fifth Preliminary Report, with a Contribution on A Seventh-Century Pottery Group," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 22 (1968): 195–216. Maria Vassilaki, ed., Mother of God: Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art (Milan: Skira, 2000). Sharon Wohl, "The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul: The Emergent Unfolding of a Complex Adaptive System," International Journal of Islamic Architecture 4, no. 1 (2015): 39–73. Spencer Hirsch ('23) for ARHS 110 Introduction to Western Art (Spring 2021).
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
3 3/8 x 2 1/4 x 9/16 in. (8.6 x 6.4 x 1.4 cm)
2.7 oz. (76.6 g)
Copper alloy (bronze)
Eastern Mediterranean; perhaps Constantinople