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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Sculpture
6.4 Bifacial closure panel
10th c., 2nd half
Vatopedi Monastery
Marble, 146 x 113 x 6.5 cm


The Original New Testament

Originally from the central section of the old marble templon in the katholikon; re-used in the row of piers in the outer narthex. The main face is decorated with the familiar early Christian motif of superposed lozenges within a rectangle. The central lozenge, however, encloses not a Christogram or a cross within a laurel wreath, but a high-relief disc with a radiating pattern of little perforations. The whole subject is framed by a broad band covered by an undulating vine-shoot with half-palmettes and grapes, at which little birds peck. The relief is executed in the champlevι technique, with the ground left rough for the mastic inlay. On the rear face, a rectangle formed by a flat band contains an incised Latin cross with droplets suspended from the ends of the arms.

Like its twin beside it, from the same templon, this closure panel displays a combination of early Christian and mediaeval decorative motifs and a mixture of techniques, notably the use of champlevι. The latter, with its clear Islamic influences, was first employed in Greece in the third quarter of the tenth century in the Church of the Virgin in Hosios Loukas' Monastery, and is also seen on closure panels re-used in the phiale of the Great Lavra on Athos. One of the latter, indeed, is remarkably similar to the Vatopedi panel.

For further stylistic comments and questions relating to the dating of the Vatopedi templon, see nos. 6.2, 6.3.

Bibliography: Pazaras 1995 (1), pp. 15-32, particularly 19, 30, figs. 9, 17.

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10th century

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