Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.42 Benediction cross
Iviron Monastery
Wood, silver gilt, enamel and
gemstones (?), 20 x 6 cm


The Original New Testament

Displayed on the wooden core of this cross are tiny but very detailed representations of the Dodekaorton. The Nativity occupies the centre of one side, with the Presentation in the Temple on the left, the Baptism on the right, the Annunciation above, and the Transfiguration and the Anastasis below; in the corresponding positions on the other side are represented the Crucifixion, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Koimesis, the Ascension, the Raising of Lazarus and the Pentecost. The lateral narrow surfaces of the wooden core are also carved: on the right there are the scenes of the Healing of the Blind Man and Christ and the Samaritan Woman, together with the Evangelists John and Matthew, and on the left the Incredulity of Thomas, the Elevation of the Cross, and the Evangelists Luke and Mark.

The border framing the cross has a delicate geometric motif in opaque white and translucent green and red enamels. Polished rubies in tulip-shaped settings embellish the whole. The junction of the cross with its handle is decorated with small gilt flowers against a background of champlevι enamelwork in deep violet. The gently curving handle, slightly overlarge for the size of the cross, is covered with white champlevι enamelwork decorated with interlacing gilt stems with naturalistic flowers in deep green, translucent enamel. A band of black enamel about half-way up the handle displays the inscription: 'ΔΙΟΝΥΣΙΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΙΑΡΧΟΥ 1676' (Of Patriarch Dionysios 1676).

This benediction cross is yet another example of the refined work produced by the goldsmiths of Constantinople in the second half of the seventeenth century. The handle with its graceful curves, in an age when provincial craftsmen still tended to use facets, is a precursor of the style which was to dominate the eighteenth century. From the fifteenth century on, the use of white enamel on a curved surface, combined with the techniques of champlevι and translucent enamels, produced some of the world's masterpieces of jewellery (Somers Cocks 1980, pp. 14-16. Hackenbroch 1986, fig. 3, p. 19 and fig. 10, p. 43). Similar to this cross are the regalia of Czar Alexei Michailovitch (1662), which were manufactured in Constantinople (Martynova 1995, p. 49. Chernukha 1988, pp. 350-1, fig. 237). The Western-inspired naturalistic floral decoration, with its anemones and narcissus (Hackenbroch 1986, figs. 25-6, pp. 70-3), adds a touch of freshness to the whole.

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Iviron
17th 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

Learned Freeware


Reference address :