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HOME : Byzantine Art : Byzantine Crosses : Byzantine Bronze Reliquary Cross with Saints Stephan and George
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Byzantine Bronze Reliquary Cross with Saints Stephan and George - X.0054
Origin: Eastern Mediterranean
Circa: 8 th Century AD to 12 th Century AD
Dimensions: 5.125" (13.0cm) high
Collection: Byzantine Art
Medium: Bronze

Location: United States
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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, perhaps St. Stephan or St. George whose images have been incised onto opposite sides of the cross. On one side, St. Stephen is shown standing, wearing a bishop's garment with a stole bearing crosses and holding a censer. On the other, St. George wears an elaborate garment. A stellar symbol appears just beneath his left hand. The forms of figures have been abstracted, especially regarding their facial features. This suggestive style heightens the spirituality of the work, for it is the idea of the holiness of the Saints that is the focus, not their physicality. The incised decorations are remarkably vivid and the overall condition of this Latin-shaped reliquary cross is outstanding, notice that the original suspension loop is still intact. 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.
- (X.0054)


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