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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.43 Benediction cross
Iviron Monastery
Wood, silver gilt, enamel and niello, 19.8 x 7.7 cm
Michalakis Frantzis, Constantinople


The Original New Testament

The wooden core of this benediction cross is carved in very heavily undercut and perforated relief. Against an opulently detailed architectural background are represented the Baptism of Christ, framed left and right by the Evangelists John and Luke and above and below by the Annunciation and the Transfiguration. The corresponding positions on the other side display the Crucifixion, the Evangelists Mark and Matthew, the Presentation in the Temple and the Anastasis. The haloes and many other details have been highlighted with parcel-gilt and touches of colour. The metal mount is covered with champlevι enamel in a lovely turquoise shade which sets off the gilding of the floral motif. Single scrolled tendrils ornament the front and back of the mount, while the decoration of the lateral surfaces makes use of larger, naturalistic flower motifs. The same technique has been used for the calligraphic inscriptions on the mount, even those refering to the wooden part of the cross. A floral pattern decorates the graceful curves and bulbous end-piece of the elegant metal handle. Engraved on a cylindrical gilt knop just below the middle of the handle is the dedicatory inscription, its nielloed lettering set out in four lines: 'Ο ΤΙΜΙΟΣ ΣΤ(ΑΥ)ΡΟΣ ΑΦΙΕΡΩΘΗ ΕΝ ΤΗ ΣΕΒΑΣΜΙΑ. ΜΟΝΗ ΤΩΝ ΙΒΗΡΩΝ ΠΑ(Ρ)Α ΤΟΥ ΠΑΝΑΓΙΩΤΑΤΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΛΟΓΙΩΤΑΤΟΥ Π(ΑΤ)ΡΙΑΡΧΟΥ ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΠΟΛ(Ε)ΩΣ ΚΥ(ΡΙΟΥ) ΚΥ(ΡΙΟΥ) ΔΙΟΝΥΣΙΟΥ ΒΥΖΑΝΤΙΟΥ ΕΙΣ ΜΝΗΜΟΣΥΝΟΝ. ΤΩΝ ΑΥΤΟΥ ΓΕΝΝΗΤΟΡ(ΩΝ) ΣΤΑΜΑΤΙΟΥ Κ(ΑΙ) ΜΑΡΓΙΩ(ΡΑΣ) αχοθ΄ Μαρτίου 1' (This holy cross was offered to the venerable Monastery of Iviron by the most holy and learned Dionysios Byzantios, Patriarch of Constantinople, in memory of his parents Stamatios and Mariora, 1672 March 1).

Like his other gifts to the monastery, this cross is proof that Patriarch Dionysios IV Mouselimis was a man of both wealth and taste. The graceful mount is an elegant and harmonious blend of turquoise and gold. An equally delicate floral decoration worked in the same technique and with the same combination of colours ornaments the face of a mid-seventeenth century wall clock in the Topkapi (Anatolian Civilisations 1983, no. E. 268, p. 263). Clocks were luxury articles, brought from abroad by foreign diplomats who presented them as gifts to high-ranking officials; such items, together with the wares imported by the foreign merchants and artisans established in Galata, were by the middle of the century contributing to the spread of Western European styles, including the floral baroque. The mount of this cross from the Monastery of Iviron is one of the finest examples of this type of work (Hackenbroch 1986, no. 25, pp. 70-1 and no. 27, pp. 74-5. Sturms - Winter-Jensen 1982, p. 17, fig. 12. Kurz 1975, pp. 54-5, 60). The elegant perfection of the design, the quality of the craftsmanship, the sureness of the engraving and, most of all, the type of lettering in the inscriptions make it virtually certain that this mount is the work of Michalakis Frantzis, the same who in 1677 was commissioned by Patriarch Dionysios IV to make the staff now preserved in the Monastery of St John the Theologian on the island of Patmos as a gift of the Patmian Patriarch Neophytos VI (1747), although initially dedicated by Patriarch Dionysios to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Ikonomaki-Papadopoulos 1988, pp. 227-8, fig. 30). A similar cross, dated 1680, is preserved in the Tatarna Monastery, in Eurytania (Koumoulidis et al. 1991, fig. on p. 113).

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

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