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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.27 Katzi
14th c., 2nd half - 15th c.
Simonopetra Monastery
Yellow bronze
Length 28.7 cm


The Original New Testament

This type of censer, generally associated with mourning rites (Xyngopoulos 1930, pp. 129-30), is known to have been in use since the eleventh century. The Simonopetra katzi is the oldest piece of metalwork in the monastery's possession (Ikonomaki-Papadopoulos 1991, fig. 81). The bowl, cast in bronze with a narrow, flat rim, is entirely undecorated. The long tubular handle, similar to that of a katzi in the Megalo Meteoro, Thessaly, is probably a later addition, for it is secured with a nail to a horseshoe-shaped extension of the bowl which also forms a sort of handle. This part of the censer is decorated in open-work and engraving technique, with a scroll of tendrils which form a heart-shaped motif framing a trefoil leaf like a fleur-de-lis. A pair of birds, their plumage suggested by graven lines, are pecking at two symmetrically placed similar leaves.

This censer is one of the many late Palaeologan works (Boura 1981, pp. 64ff.) preserved in Greek monasteries and collections, as well as in collections in other Balkan countries (Ikonomaki-Papadopoulos 1991, p. 163 nn. 8-9), their number attesting to the tremendous production of open-work lighting devices cast in bronze during this period, from suspended oil- lamps and candelabra to the polykandela of the Palaeologan period that illuminated the great churches (Byzantium 1994, nos. 216-17, pp. 200-1).

Four of the extant katzia resemble very closely with the Simonopetra censer: in the Benaki Museum, Athens, the Megalo Meteoro, Mystra, Belgrade, Marko Monastir); together, these form an extremely interesting group, possibly all from the same workshop (Boura 1981, pp. 64ff. Xyngopoulos 1930, fig. 6.1.). Such minor variations as impressed circlets or engraving do not essentially alter the openwork decoration of the broad flat handle, which is virtually identical in all these works. The resemblance is particularly marked in the katzia from Simonopetra, Belgrade and Marko Monastir, whose peopled scrolls figure in other articles of cast bronze: in all probability, the workshop where they were made also produced other lighting fitments, such as the Marko Monastir polykandelon (Todorovic 1978, pp. 28ff.). Mount Athos has been suggested as a possible centre of production, as have a number of other cities in Greece and Serbia (Barisic 1991, p. 227). It is not unreasonable to suppose, however, that a workshop such as this would have been located in a regional centre which was also a commercial metropolis renowned for its copper-work (Todorovic 1991, pp. 99, 123), such as Thessaloniki.

Bibliography: Ikonomaki-Papadopoulos 1991, fig. 81.

K. L-T.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Simonopetra
14th 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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