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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.61 Rod of the Protos
Silver and niello
Length 116.3 cm


The Original New Testament

This rod has a smooth, rounded wooden shaft with a silver-sheathed head. Engraved on the flattened top of the sheathing is a stylized sketch of Mount Athos, with the identifying inscription and the date 1856. Just beneath the rim are displayed the names of the twenty Athonite monasteries, engraved four by four on five panels. The remainder of the ornamentation consists of a series of bands set obliquely round the shaft and decorated alternately with a reticulate and a floral pattern, both typical rococo motifs. A little below the head, two engraved plates riveted to the shaft serve to anchor a half-ring of twisted wire, to which a tassel is attached when the rod is in use (Meletzis 1996, fig. 10). All the engraved ornamentation is accented with niello.

The names of the monasteries are engraved on the shaft in groups of four, in the order in which each quartet assumes the annual epistasia, or administrative stewardship. Successively, the first named in each group - that is, the representatives of the Great Lavra, Vatopedi, Iviron, Chelandari and Dionysiou - bears the title of Protoepistatis, presides over meetings of the Holy Community and supervises the work of the administrative committee. As a symbol of his authority and of the unity of the Holy Mount, he holds the rod of Protos (Smyrnakis 1903, pp. 327-8. Ktenas 1929, pp. 249-50, Charter of Mount Athos 1979, pp. 41-2). The rococo motifs ornamenting the head of this rod are part of an artistic vocabulary shared by painters, goldsmiths and engravers across the northern Helladic world, and particularly those on Mount Athos - where the same craftsmen were sometimes both engravers and goldsmiths -, until well into the nineteenth century, as in this present example (Les Orfevres de Nantes, no. 133, p. 259 and no. 184, p. 292. Garidis 1996, p. 57, fig. 69. Papastratou 1986, I, no. 15, p. 50).

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Protato
19th 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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