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HOME : Byzantine Art : Archive : Byzantine Bronze Reliquary Cross
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Byzantine Bronze Reliquary Cross - FJ.6763
Origin: Israel
Circa: 600 AD to 1100 AD
Dimensions: 2.5" (6.4cm) high
Collection: Byzantine Art
Style: Byzantine
Medium: Bronze


Additional Information: SOLD

Location: United States
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Description
A reliquary is a receptacle for keeping or displaying sacred relics. For Christians, relics were objects connected with saints or the actual physical remains of saints. The veneration of the sacred relics of martyrs is a practice known to date from at least as early as the 2nd century. The Crusades led to an influx of relics from the Middle East and reliquaries became popular items of adornment used for protection by crusaders and the wealthy elite who could afford such luxuries. Although the practice of veneration was defended both by the 13th century theologian St. Thomas Aquinas and by the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the veneration of icons has always had a greater importance in the Eastern Orthodoxy.

This beautiful Byzantine reliquary cross once housed the relics of a Christian martyr. In fact, the two halves of the cross are still sealed. Perhaps the remains of a saint still remain inside? This possibility makes the cross even more sacred and special. Given the outstanding condition of the reliquary (notice that the suspension loop is still intact) and considering that when gently shaken, one can hear a faint rumbling inside, this possibility is quite high. While this chance makes the cross that much more exciting, it should not take away from the remarkable beauty of the reliquary itself. The Latin-shaped cross has been incised with a representation of Mary. The Virgin is shown with her arms outstretched in prayer, bent upward towards the heavens. This specific pose is known as the Virgin Orans, meaning “Praying Virgin.” The forms of figure have been abstracted, especially regarding her facial features. This suggestive style heightens the spirituality of the work, for it is the idea of the holiness of the Virgin that is the focus, not her physicality. The reverse of the cross has been inscribed with a series of letter, possibly relating to a prayer or standing for a passage from the Bible. The sacred, protective energies of this spectacular reliquary cross continue to radiate outwards, still as potent and powerful as the day it was first worn.
- (FJ.6763)

 

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