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Byzantine bronze enkolpion reliquary cross, 10th-12th Century AD

Conservation:  Black-green patina, tiny missing part on one corner of the cross arms, otherwise intact
Material:  Bronze
Dimensions:  10,4 x 5 cm.
Provenance:  From the collection H. I., Westphalia, since before 1986; Auction, December 2022, München (Germany).


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On the front the crucified Christ, above tabula with X and sun and moon, on the left Mary, on the right John, under the arms of the cross IC – XP. On the back Mary Orans, at the ends of the cross four medallions with the evangelists.

Byzantine Encolipa correspond to small hanging crosses-reliquaries, so that they would have been placed on the chest (“en kolpos”) of their bearers. Their origin is associated with the pilgrimage sites of the Holy Land, where their basic morphology and iconography would have been shaped at least from the time of Justinian in the 6th century. Their production continued throughout the Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods, with a wide variety of typologies in terms of size, materials (gold, silver, bronze, etc.) and iconography.

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