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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.77 Chalice
late 16th c.
Iviron Monastery
Silver gilt with glass-paste stones
Height 30 cm, rim diameter 14.7 cm, base diameter 18.5 cm


The Original New Testament

This chalice stands on a broad, low base with a border of alternating large and small scallops a Late Gothic survival. Spiralling up from the centre of this base like an inverted waterspout is a conical stem, which passes through the knop and forms a rudimentary corolla on which the slightly flared bowl is set. Just below the rim of the chalice are two rows of square, flat, red and green stones, alternately spaced in plain, deep mounts. The knop, which appears to be round, is really a polyhedron, with rounded edges tapering towards the apexes. It is decorated with oblong stones larger green ones on the rhomboid facets, and smaller red ones on the other surfaces.

Spiralling patterns like that on the stem of this chalice were frequently used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to decorate utilitarian articles in steel and brass, such as helmets and shields, basins, ewers and sprinklers (Allan, Raby 1982, pp. 34-5, figs. 7b, 16b, 48. Atil 1987, fig. 100). A chalice in the Dekani Monastery (1567/8) with a knop similar to this one, although with even more pronounced Western features and Ottoman ornamentation, has been attributed to a Serbian goldsmith (Sakota 1984, p. 193, fig. 28, p. 234).

Knops with smaller protuberant rhomboid surfaces were common, especially in Central Europe, in Late Gothic chalices (Roth 1922, plates 18 and 24, 3 and 4). The Iviron chalice, however, is not necessarily part of this tradition, since polyhedral spheres of similar shape were also used in Ottoman art, while multi-facetted knops are one of the characteristic structural features of everyday articles and ecclesiastical plate including chalices from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Atil 1987, fig. 81, p. 145. Allan, Raby 1982, figs. 24, 51. Radojkovic 1966, figs. 135, 143, 176).

The most striking feature of this chalice is its slender line, so characteristic of Ottoman art, where decoration was considered less important than form, and form was based on proportion and balance (Petsopoulos 1982, p. 9. Allan, Raby 1982, pp. 27-8). The Late Gothic features are not sufficiently pronounced to colour the whole, and the dominant impression is of a style characteristically Eastern. This is further reinforced by the use of coloured stones (a feature not uncommon in the decoration of chalices), which recall the rubies and emeralds used by the goldsmiths of the Sultan's court to ornament luxury items (Sakota 1984, p. 193, fig. 28, p. 234. Radojkovic 1966, fig. 136. Ikonomaki-Papadopoulos 1988, fig. 43, p. 262. Atil 1987, fig. 54, pp. 123-4).

Bibliography: Unpublished.
Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Iviron
16th 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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