Near East / Holy Land, late Roman period to Byzantine Empire, ca. 5th to 7th century CE. A pretty example of a cast bronze pilgrim's oil lamp, decorated with a scallop shell-shaped handle that rises on a flame-like finial from the back. The body of the lamp is rounded, with a flat base and an elongated spout with a wide, shallow mouth. The base has a shallow socket for attachment to a stand. The symbol of the scallop shell in Christianity relates to St. James who was a fisherman in Galilee before he became a disciple of Jesus; he represents the act of pilgrimage. The shape of the shell, with grooved paths leading from the wide edge to a point, can symbolize the many different paths to Christ. The shell was also meant to represent the heavenly afterlife, and, for example, the interior of Constantine's church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem has a scallop shell carved into the niche. Size: 5.3" W x 3.9" H (13.5 cm x 9.9 cm)
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Richard Wagner collection, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, acquired in the 1960s
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