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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.26 Processional cross
9th-10th c.
Docheiariou Monastery
Bronze, cast and engraved
Height 95 cm, spread of crossarms 60 cm, thickness 0.8 cm



The Original New Testament

The gently flaring arms of this cross, which has an exceptionally beautiful green patina, have convex ends with finial knobs ornamenting the points. The handle, an extension of the vertical arm, has been fixed to an overturned marble Byzantine capital. Its sole decoration is the engraved inscription on both sides, today partially obscured by the metal reinforcing sheet that has been riveted to the centre. The inscriptions read as follows: (front vertical arm): '+ Χ(ριστ)Ε / Ο / Θ(εο)C' (Christ the Lord) and continue vertically 'ΤΗΝ ΜΗΤΡΙΚΗΝ [...] ΜΥΤΗΝ ΦΥΛΑΞΟΝ ΠΟΛΙΝ', (horizontal arm) ΔΙΑ ΠΑΝΤΟ[C Ε]Ν ΕΙΡΗΝΗ (reverse, vertical arm) +ΓΝΩΤΕ ΕΘΝΗ ΚΑ(ι) ΗΤΤΑC ΘΕ ΟΤΙ ΜΕΘ ΗΜΩΝ Ο Θ(εο)C (horizontal arm) ΚΑΙ Η ΠΑΝΑΓ[ΙΑ Θ]ΕΟΤΟΚΟC' (... preserve this ... city eternally in peace ... understand, O nations, and yield, for the Lord is with us and the Holy, the Mother of God).

Elegant in design and harmonious in its proportions, this type of cross has been known since the early Christian period. In many details this particular example closely resembles a number of copper crosses from the ninth and tenth centuries now in private Greek collections (Boura 1979, p. 12. Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art 1986, no. 193). Also extant are a number of tenth-century inscribed crosses, similar to this one but with figurative subjects (Byzantium 1994, nos. 161, 175) or decorated with sheet-gold, niello or enamel, like the Adrianople cross (Boura 1979, pp. 9-16). The similarities between the Docheiariou cross and the 899 cross in the Zachos Collection are obvious, and justify a similar dating for this work.

The use of processional crosses was not restricted to litanies of the great Orthodox feasts; they were also used in ceremonies marking the anniversaries of earthquakes or sieges, as is evident from the miniatures in the Menologion of Basil II (Galavaris 1991, col. 219ff.). Written sources tell us that they also accompanied emperors or generals on campaign (Boura 1979, p. 12). The inscription on the Docheiariou cross would appear to reflect this last use, and classify it as a labarum functioning cross.

Bibliography: Papangelos 1997 (forthcoming).

K. L-T.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Docheiareiou
9th century

The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

Icon of the Mother of God and New Testament Reader Promote Greek Learning
Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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