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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.47 Sanctification cross
18th c., 2nd half
Simonopetra Monastery
Silver gilt, enamel, gemstones and pearls
23 x 11.3 cm, base diameter 8.6 cm


The Original New Testament

One side of the wooden core of this cross displays the Nativity and five scenes around it: Christ and the Samaritan Woman, the Healing of the Blind Man, the Annunciation, the Presentation in the Temple and the Presentation of the Virgin; on the other side and in the same respective positions are: the Crucifixion, the Raising of Lazarus, the Baptism, the Incredulity of Thomas, the Anastasis and the Descent from the Cross. The gilt mount is ornamented with geometrical filigree motifs and, in the corners, enamelled heart-shaped pendants. Affixed to the ends of the crossarms and the lateral surfaces are complex foliate ornaments in intricate filigree work, decorated with red glass-paste stones, green enamel flowers and pearls. The filigree ornaments are repeated on the shaft and on the round base.

This cross is a typical example of a large and varied group, mostly dating from the second half of the eighteenth century, in which filigree work, alone or with enamel, is the predominant characteristic. While such seventeenth-century features as lateral ornaments and shaft knops or collets continue to be used, they have either taken on different forms or, like the enamels, been metamorphosed into delicate but over-elaborate filigree ornaments that are in the end obtrusive rather than decorative, shifting the focus of attention from the wood-carved core to its mount. A number of such works are preserved in the sacristy of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; another similar piece, in the Monastery of Vatopedi, is signed by a Kalarrhytan goldsmith (Ballian 1986, p. 528, fig. 473). Filigree work, common in Western Europe since the late seventeenth century, was used both for jewellery and for larger costly objects.

Bibliography: Ikonomaki-Papadopoulos 1991, p. 168, fig. 95.

Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Simonopetra
18th century

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