Byzantine Empire, ca. 9th to 13th century CE. A gorgeous, huge bronze reliquary in the form of two crosses fitted together, hinged at the bottom. At the top is a hinge attached to a thick, horizontal loop for suspension. Comes with custom stand. Size: 2" W x 3.5" H (5.1 cm x 8.9 cm); height on stand: 4.95" (12.6 cm).
On one side is an incised design of four faces - perhaps representing the four Evangelists? - with a drilled, shallow circle in the center. On the other is an abstract design of drilled holes and incised lines forming a cross within the main body of the cross and some unreadable letters.
Relics - physical remains of saints or objects associated with Christ, such as pieces of the True Cross, the shroud His body was wrapped in, or, mythically, the Holy Grail - held tremendous power in medieval Christianity. Reliquaries, objects designed to hold relics, were usually kept in cathedrals or churches, but some wealthy individuals were able to possess them. The less wealthy could purchase replicas of reliquaries, small reliquaries containing less precious items like soil from a holy site, or metal items produced as a form of souvenir from shrines. Later, many of these objects were destroyed in times of religious conflict or strife; ones that are intact have often been passed down through generations of families. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has several of these items in its collection, including on display – see the small hinged cross reliquary depicting Christ and the Virgin (1999.519.9).
Provenance: Ex-private east coast, USA collection
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