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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.67 Choros
14th c., late 16th-early 17th c.
Pantokrator Monastery
Copper alloy
Length of each section, with double-headed eagle, 94 cm


The Original New Testament

Some time in the twelfth century a new type of fixture began to illuminate the domed churches of the Byzantine world: this was the choros, a multi-lateral frame which was suspended beneath the dome and was fitted with prickets or hanging lamps or polykandela (Bouras 1981, pp. 480-1). The same period also saw the introduction into the churches of Western Europe of the great hoop chandeliers made in the model of Heavenly Jerusalem, like the magnificent one made for the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (Haussherr 1977, nos. 537, 592).

The choros from the Monastery of Pantokrator is typical of the Late Byzantine openwork choroi cast in bronze, still found in a number of Serbian monasteries, some intact and some fragmentary (Todorovic 1978, pp. 28-36). Its eight horizontal sections, each consisting of two broad bands joined by a central arch, are assembled by hinged corner-pieces in the form of two-headed eagles. These, in turn, are surmounted by hinged vertical elements in two identical sections, to which the chains for its suspension were fastened. The stylistic features of this choros show that it was based on two different models dating from two different periods. Under each arch a pair of winged dragons face each other across a cantharus surmounted by a cross; the flanking bands are decorated with a scroll of vine shoots with rosettes, palmettes and a fringing of leaves; and an appliquι ornament patterned with a floral arabesque covers the body of the double-headed eagle. On both sides engraved details on the leaves and flowers betoken an attempt to give them a certain naturalistic volume. The style was inspired by the illustration of Ottoman manuscripts and ceramics, and suggests a date towards the end of the sixteenth or, at the latest, very early in the seventeenth century (Rogers - Ward 1988, nos. 31 and 138. Anatolian Civilisations 1983, E 130. Raby - Allan 1982, no. 3).

The vertical suspension elements, on the other hand, are quite different: their composite flora motifs, stylized and without additional engraved details, may be likened to fourteenth-century Byzantine models (Bouras 1981, fig. 7; cf. Todorovic 1978, fig. 8 and Campbell 1985, no. 194). Each is formed of a basal quatrefoil rosette framing three-petalled lilies, and a broad band with a pattern of lyre-shaped motifs in facing pairs. An identical rosette, crowned by a cross, surmounts the central arches on the lateral sections.

The problem posed by this choros is that the pieces preserved in the monastery are different in either thickness or scale. Further, a similar choros preserved in Dionysiou Monastery - intact and still in situ (Kadas 1997, pp. 48-9) - has lateral elements displaying a similar floral ornamentation and iconography, and vertical straps either like known examples in Serbian monasteries or resembling those on the Pantokrator choros. It would seem likely, therefore, that these choroi may have been built up from existing elements, which the craftsman perhaps tried to reproduce. His principal contribution, however, lay in the lateral sections, which record the style of the period in which they were made.

Bibliography: Unpublished.

A. B.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Pantokrator
14th 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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