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HOME : Byzantine Art : Byzantine Metalwork : Byzantine Bronze Staff Finial in the Form of a Hand Carrying a Cross
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Byzantine Bronze Staff Finial in the Form of a Hand Carrying a Cross - X.0662
Origin: Eastern Mediterranean
Circa: 5 th Century AD to 9 th Century AD
Dimensions: 7.25" (18.4cm) high x 2.75" (7.0cm) wide
Collection: Byzantine
Medium: Bronze

$9,600.00
Location: United States
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Description
A cross of light bearing the inscription “in hoc signo vinces” (in this sign you will conquer) miraculously appeared to Roman Emperor Constantine before the battle of Milvian Bridge. His victory over his brother-in-law and co-emperor Maxentius and subsequent conversion to Christianity had a profound impact on the course of Western civilization. In 330 A.D., Constantine transferred the center of imperial power from Rome eastwards to the city of Byzantion. Renamed Constantinople, this city became the capital of the wealthy, powerful Byzantine Empire.

While Christianity replaced the gods of antiquity, traditional Classical culture continued to flourish. Greek and Latin were the languages of the learned classes. Before Persian and Arab invasions devastated much of their eastern holdings, Byzantine territory extended as far as south as Egypt. After a period of iconoclastic uprising came to resolution in the 9th Century, a second flowering of Byzantine culture arose and lasted until Constantinople was temporarily seized by Crusaders from the west in the 13th Century. Christianity spread throughout the Slavic lands to the north. In 1453, Constantinople finally fell to the Ottoman Turks effectively ending the Byzantine Empire after more than 1,100 years. Byzantine art and culture was the epitome of luxury, encorporating the finest elements from the artistic traditions of both the East and the West.

The Byzantine Divine Liturgy was a symbolic re-enactment of Christ's incarnation, teachings, and sacrifice. This Great Mysterium - the redemption of humanity - unfolded in an elaborate church ceremony that included prayer readings, the singing of hymns, and procession of clergy decorated in lavish vestments, some of whom carried processional crosses. Others swung censers gently back and forth, filling the air with sweet smelling smoke. The eucharistic bread was stamped with various patterns. The ceremony stimulated all the senses and engaged the mind, allowing the worshipper to experience the divine.

This Byzantine bronze cross likely served as a staff finial that would have been carried during a ceremony procession. The hollow tiered base would have been attached to the tip of a staff of finely polished or delicately carved wood. From this base, a human hand emerges, holding the cross in between its thumb and fingers. - (X.0662)

 

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