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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.45 Sanctification cross
Xeropotamou Monastery
Silver gilt, niello, turquoises, glass-paste stones and pearls
27 x 9.5 cm, base diameter 7.6 cm


The Original New Testament

This wooden cross is carved in a heavily undercut relief, in some places perforated. On one side it displays the Baptism, flanked left and right by Evangelists, with the Annunciation above and the Transfiguration below; the other side has, in the same positions, the Crucifixion, Evangelists, the Presentation in the Temple and the Anastasis. Engraved on the vertical arm of the cross, in the scene of the Crucifixion, is the signature of the wood-carver: 'ΠΗΜ(Α) Γ(Α)Β(ΡΙ)ΗΛ Θ(Υ)ΤΟΥ' (Made by Gabriel, priest). A flowered vine decorated with tiny daisies, glass-paste stones, turquoises and pearls ornament the silver-gilt mount. Attached to the lower lateral surfaces are laminate metal ornaments in the shape of foliate dragons. Similar, smaller dragons curve from below the six-winged seraph surmounting the vertical arm to the upper surface of the horizontal arm. Held in their mouths are buds, which develop into small seraphs. Tiny daisies ornament the shaft, with its polygonal knobs and braided collet. On the round base stylized gilt tulips filled with daisies alternate with gilded surfaces decorated with flowered scrolls accented with niello. Around the edge of the base runs the inscription: '+ ΓΕΔΕΩΝ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ 1671 ΜΗΝΗΟΥ ΑΠΡΗΛΙΟΥ' (Gedeon, hieromonk, 1671 month of April).

In this cross, as also in the cross donated to the monastery by the same Gedeon, hieromonk, colour contrast is a basic element in the artist's decorative concept, the main difference being that in this piece a dark background sets off the gilt surfaces with the daisies (Jablonskaja 1988, pp. 211-3, figs. 141 and 142b. Ballian 1996, p. 512, fig. 452). Delicate, niello-accented tendrils, a revival of a similar ornament much used in sixteenth-century Ottoman illuminated manuscripts and ceramics (Petsopoulos 1982, p. 7, pls. 185 and 73), were a very popular decorative feature in Moscow in the second half of the seventeenth and the early eighteenth century, and were frequently used in combination with floral Baroque motifs (Russkoj kul'tury 1988, p. 229, fig. 318. Sizova 1993, nos. 56-7, pp. 110-1 and no. 75, p. 121).

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Xeropotamou
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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