BYZANTINE ENKOLPION CROSS WITH
Measurements: 10 cm - height
Description: A Byzantine bronze enkolpion featuring a hinged base and a suspension loop for wear. The front is decorated with the incised image of a Saint, displayed in the Orans position in prayer with the halo surrounding his head. The figure is dressed in finely decorated robes, with a cloak behind his back. Above the figure’s head the Greek inscription IOAN, which refers to St John.
It is unusual to see a cross dedicated only to one saint, as often the figure of Christ is also displayed on one side. In this case we have three possibilities for which St John can refer to: St John the Evangelist (co-author of the Christian Bible), St John the Baptist (also referred to as the Forerunner, who precedes the arrival of Jesus to announce his coming) and St John Chrysostom (Archbishop of Constantinople and one of the most prolific Christian Church authors).
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 centauries a great number of crosses were made to hold a secondary relic in them containing pieces of saints’ clothing, pieces of the True Cross or hair fragments, and so on. Crosses offered protection to the wearer and would have been available all over the Byzantine Empire.
Period: Circa 10th - 12th century A.D.
Condition: Fine, signs of aging and beautiful green patina on the surface.