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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Sculpture
6.2 Part of the epistyle of a templon
10th c., 2nd half
Vatopedi Monastery
Marble, 17 x 243 x 37 cm


The Original New Testament

This was part of the old marble templon in the katholikon. One end was broken off so that it could be re-used as the south pilaster of the Royal Door in the Chapel of the Hagia Zoni. Along the upper face runs a series of circles enclosing five-leaved palmettes. In between was a boss, which has been turned into a cartouche, a kind of shield surrounded by stylised rococo leaves. The lower surface is also covered with relief decoration, divided into sections enclosing lozenge-shaped interlacing patterns, a foliate cross, a cruciform arrangement of palmettes, a curved lozenge with a cross in the centre, and a two-headed eagle that was carved later on the unfinished rectangular surface which rested on the abacus of the capital.

The decorative subjects are all executed in the crisp-carving technique in an eclectic style that combines early Christian and middle-Byzantine motifs seen on the epistyles of tenth- and eleventh-century templa in Acroinon and Sebastia in Asia Minor, in the Church of the Panagia Krina on Chios, in the Monastery of hosios Loukas in Phocis, and also in Constantinople itself in the Church of the Virgin in Lips Monastery. This shows that the construction of the Vatopedi templon is directly connected with the artistic output of the capital during the Macedonian Renaissance and may be dated to the same period as the Monastery's foundation. According to the written sources, this was in the third or last quarter of the tenth century.

For further stylistic comments and questions relating to the dating of the Vatopedi templon, see nos. 6.3, 6.4.

Bibliography: Komnenos 1701, p. 42. Barskij 1887, pp. 197-8. Pazaras 1995 (1), pp. 15-32, pls. 3-4, 17.

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10th century

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