EARLY CHRISTIAN SILVER PECTORAL CROSS - Eastern Roman/Byzantine
c. 7th – 8th Century AD
(75 x 40 mm – 3 x 1.5”) - Weight: 13.92 gm
An elaborate silver ancient Christian pectoral cross from the Iconoclastic period of Eastern Rome/Byzantium. The arms of the cross terminate in circular bezels with red gems (garnet?). There is a central cross design with radiating elements. The hanger loop is hinged, and the back of the cross is undecorated. Per Iconoclastic doctrine, no human or holy images are displayed. This artifact is not only an uncommon design, but silver pectoral crosses of this period are many times scarcer than bronze ones.
By the 5th and 6th centuries, the cross replaced the Chi-Rho as the standard emblem of Christian religious devotion. Its meaning transcended that of the simple monogram to visually recall the crucifixion. The cross was worn by individuals from every social stratum, from the elaborate bejeweled golden cross of the patriarch to the simple crosses of the common man. 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 that they had assumed the cross and were soldiers of Christ. Many also wore a pectoral cross around their neck.
This is a well-crafted ancient cross of unusual design - in excellent condition, retaining its suspension loop so that it might be worn today, 1200+ years after it was produced.
For similarly designed crosses, reference pages 182, 196-7 in Hirmer Rom und Byzanz, Munich, 1988.