Near East, Byzantine Empire, ca. 9th to 11th century CE. A heavy, cast bronze reliquary with low relief iconography of Christ dressed in flowing robes on front and back - one side depicts him facing forward, while the other depicts him from behind. The cross hinges to contain a relic and has a thick bronze loop at the top for suspension. Comes with custom stand. Size: 1.5" W x 3.7" H (3.8 cm x 9.4 cm); height on stand: 4.1" (10.4 cm).
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 on display in Gallery 303.
Provenance: Ex-private East Coast, USA collection
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