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A finely modelled Byzantine bronze enkolpion reliquary cross, featuring a hinged base and a suspension loop for wear. The front is decorated with the incised image of Mary displayed in the Orans position in prayer, with the halo surrounding her head. The virgin Mary is sided on both sides by the engraved depiction of palm leaves. Above her, written in Greek, is the inscription “Mother of God”, abbreviated from Μήτηρ (του) Θεοῦ to MP ΘΥ above. Depicted on the reverse is the figure of Jesus Christ on the cross. The written Greek inscription IC XC NHKA translates to “Jesus Christ conquers”.
Date: Circa 10th - 12th century AD Condition: Fine, signs of aging and beautiful green patina on the surface.
Such a cross, also known as an enkolpion, could have been worn as a pectoral cross, which, during the Middle Ages, was an attribute of bishops. Throughout the centuries a great number of crosses were made to hold a secondary relic in them, containing pieces of saints’ clothing, pieces of the True Cross, hair fragments, and so on. Crosses offered protection to the wearer and would have been available all over the Byzantine Empire.