Ancient Christian Reliquary Cross
Byzantine Era: Circa 10th – 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. 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 large two part, hinged bronze reliquary cross, which is complete and apparently unopened. This unusual cross portrays, on one side, an incised representation of the Virgin Mary, with arms extended and hands raised (“orans”). The other side has a Latin Cross in relief at center, with incised palm leaves and a geometric design. The reliquary was probably thought to contain a splinter of the True Cross. For other bronze reliquary crosses, see the exhibition catalog “Kreuz und Kruzifix” (Diocese Museum of Friesing, Germany, 2005) – pgs 174-175. Similar iconography is depicted in Pitarakis “Les Croix-Reliquaries Pectorales”.
Superb condition, with a pleasing green patina.
(105 x 50 mm – 4 1/8 x 2”)