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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.41 Benediction cross
Iviron Monastery
Wood, parcel-gilt, enamel, turquoises and pearls
27.2 x 10.5 cm
Ioannis, son of Frange


The Original New Testament

Represented on one side of the wooden core of this cross is the Nativity, framed by a full-length, seated Evangelist on the left, the Presentation in the Temple on the right, in the position usually occupied by another Evangelist, the Annunciation above and the Baptism below. Occupying the corresponding positions on the other side are the Crucifixion, two Evangelists, the Entry into Jerusalem and the Anastasis. All the scenes are accompanied by identifying inscriptions. The mount is covered with stylized lotus flowers and other flora and geometrical motifs in filigree work, set off by an enamel ground in shades of green and blue. Multi-coloured stones alternate with small pearls in delicate mounts. The lateral surfaces display the initials 'Τ(όπος) Κ(ρανίου) Π(αράδεισος) Γ(έγονε)' (The place of a skull has become Paradise) and 'Α(ρχή) Π(ίστεως) Μ(υστήριο) Σ(ταυρός)' (the cross of the Sacrament the beginning of Faith). The braided wire ring around the shaft of the cross and the heavy, multi-facetted knob on its end are typical of the crosses of this period. On the shaft is engraved the inscription: '+ ΕΤΕΛΗ/ΟΘΗ Ο ΤΙΜΙ/ΟΣ ΚΕ ΖΟΩ/ΠΗΟΣ ΣΤΑ/ΒΡΟΣ ΙΠΟ/ ΧΗΡΟΣ ΕΜ/ΟΥ ΙΟΑΝΟ/Υ ΤΟΥ ΦΡΑΓΓΕ/ ΔΙΑ ΣΙΔΡΟ/ ΜΗΣ ΚΟΠΟ/ ΤΕ ΚΕ ΕΞΟ/ΔΟ ΑΡΧΙΕ/ΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΥ/ ΔΟΜΕΝΙΚΟ ΚΕ ΕΛΑΣΟΝΟΣ/ ΓΑΛΑΚΤΙΟΝ' (this precious and life-giving cross was fashioned by myself Ioannis, son of Frange with the aid and at the costage of Archbishop Galaktion of Domenico and Elassona).

This cross is of exceptional interest, as one of the oldest examples of a benediction cross decorated with filigree enamel. Goldsmith Ioannis, son of Frange, was a native of Domenico in Thessaly, as we know from another signed work of his, a processional cross dedicated to the Megalo Meteoro, also in Thessaly, and dated 1594/5 (Chatzidakis - Sofianos 1990, pp. 216-7), a work which resembles the Iviron cross in style and technique. Ioannis, son of Frange of Domenico, Photis Perpiras of Agia (1643), Demos of neighbouring Retsani (Metaxochori; 1663), and many others attest to the fact that the goldsmith's craft continued to be practised in Thessaly throughout the seventeenth century, and confirm the extensive use of the technique of filigree enamel which, with motifs inspired by Ottoman art, was very popular in provincial workshops at that time. Local research, however, has not yet been able to determine whether these Thessalian goldsmiths tended to practise their craft in small settlements, using them as bases to serve a large rural area, nor to what extent they were dependent on larger regional centres, like Trikala (Ballian 1992, pp. 35-6).

The unsophisticated wood-carving of this cross is another point for stylistic and iconographic comparison, and a good basis for an exploration of the question of whether, like their Athonite brothers, the monks of Meteora also practised this craft (Chatzidakis - Sofianos 1990, pp. 30-1, 216-7. Pyles Mysteriou 1994, no. 34, p. 215).

It was as Archbishop of Domenico and Elassona, from 1593 to 1615, that Galaktion commissioned this cross from the goldsmith Ioannis, son of Frange of Domenico. In 1615 he retired, and retreated to the Monastery of Iviron where, in 1625/6, he subsidised the building of a boatyard and other buildings (Velkos 1980, pp. 149-53. Gedeon 1906 and 1912, p. 17. Millet - Pargoire - Petit 1904, nos. 289-90, p. 93).

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Iviron
16th 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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