Ancient Christian Reliquary Cross - Byzantine c. 11-12th Cent AD


Ancient Christian Reliquary Cross - Byzantine Era: Circa 11th – 12th century AD

(Period of the 1st – 3rd Crusades)

Ancient Byzantine Reliquary Cross: By the 5th and 6th centuries, the Cross had replaced the Chi-Rho as the standard emblem of Christian religious devotion. Its meaning transcended that of the simple monogram to visually recall the crucifixion. Crosses were worn by individuals from every social stratum, from the elaborate bejeweled golden cross of the patriarch to the simple crosses of the common man. The word crusade, which is derived from the Latin crux (cross), is a reference to the biblical injunction that Christians carry their cross. Crusaders wore a red cross sewn on their tunics to indicate they had assumed the cross and were soldiers of Christ. Many also wore a pectoral cross around their neck.

This is a small two part, hinged bronze reliquary cross, complete with hanging loop and apparently unopened. This unusual cross portrays, on one side, Christ with arms extended, wearing a loincloth. Above his head is a cross.  On the other side is a representation of the haloed Virgin Mary, also with arms extended and hands raised (“orans”). The reliquary was probably thought to contain a splinter of the True Cross. For other reliquary crosses, see the exhibition catalog “Kreuz und Kruzifix” (Diocese Museum of Friesing, Germany, 2005) – pgs 174-175. Byzantine representations of the Crucifixion which show Christ wearing a robe are normally earlier than those in which he wears a loincloth.

Excellent condition, with a pleasing green patina.

(49 x 22 mm – 1 15/16 x 7/8”)

  • Inventory Number: PA-3501
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