Reliquary Cross

Syria-Palestine
Byzantine
9th–10th century


Object Place: Middle East, Palestine, Syria

Dimensions

11.3 x 5.4 x 1.1 cm (4 7/16 x 2 1/8 x 7/16 in.)

Accession Number

61.1092

Medium or Technique

Metal; leaded latten (80.2% copper, 9% zinc, 7.6% lead, 3.2% tin)

Not On View

Collections

Europe

Classifications

Metalwork

Pectoral cross with slightly flaring arms comprising two valves decorated in relief, fastened with a clasp at the bottom and a hinge at the top (to which a suspension loop is attached). The loop is cast; the sides are cast, chased, and punched. The Crucifixion on the front shows the bearded Christ with his head inclined to the left and wearing a colobium. The suppedaneum is decorated with punch marks and there is a depression in each of Christ’s hands and feet to indicate nails. Above his cruciform nimbus is a titulus inscribed with a central X and four dots. At the top are chased and punched symbols of Sol and Luna. On the horizontal bar of the cross is the inscription (in Greek); at each end are the Virgin (left) and Saint John (right), both with large heads and abbreviated bodies. The single loops for the clasp and hinge emanating from the top and bottom of this side resemble palmettes. On the back side is the Virgin Orans, wearing a tunic and maphorion, superimposed on a finely hatched mandorla. The four ends of the cross have medallions with frontal busts of the Evangelists holding closed books with covers decorated with punched designs. All have short hair and, except for the figure on the left, long pointed beards. A chased outline frames the scenes. Attached to the hinge is a large loop fluted on top.

Provenance

By 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius C. Vermeule III, Cambridge, MA; 1961, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius C. Vermeule III to the MFA. (Accession date: October 11, 1961)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius C. Vermeule III