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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.78 Chalice
Pantokrator Monastery
Silver parcel-gilt, enamel, pearls
Height 31 cm, base diameter 8.5 cm


The Original New Testament

This chalice stands on a round, stepped foot, on which is engraved the following inscription: MNHΣΘHTI ΘYTA KAMOI TΩ ΠONHKOTI KΩNΣTANTIΩ TΛHMONI TAXA KAI ΘYTH (`Remember too, O Priest, the patient artificer Konstantios, as if a sharer in the sacrifice') The slender stem, of silver gilt like the foot, is decorated with narrow annulae and cast grotesque ornaments and volutes. On the small round knop about halfway up the stem, palmettes and split leaves in the rumi style stand out against a background of deep blue and green enamel. The body of the chalice is cylindrical in shape; its conical bottom and lid, decorated with Late Gothic palmettes on an enamel ground, create a pleasing balance in style and proportion. Again, the row of Late Gothic palmettes encircling the edge of the lid is repeated, this time inverted and without pearls, around the bottom of the cylindrical cup. Engraved on the body of the cup are trefoil panels, each surmounted by a cross and containing an engraved and gilded palmette. Engraved on the undecorated surface of the lid is the following inscription: + I(HΣOY)Σ X(PIΣTO)Σ O ZΩHΦOPOΣ APTOΣ XAPITI ΠANTAΣ TOYΣ ΠIΣTOYΣ AEI TPEΦEI. EN ETEI AXKA (`Jesus Christ The Bread Of Life By Grace Eternal Sustenance To All The Faithful. 1621'). The goldsmith's signature `Photis the humble maker' is engraved on the vertical rim-piece that fits snugly inside the cup. The lid is surmounted by a pearl-decked cross, and is attached to the chalice by a chain.

This unusually-shaped vessel, held by Monastery tradition to have been in use as a chalice, was apparently inspired by the ecclesiastical ciboria and secular stemmed goblets (which were often lidded) of the Mannerist period in Central Europe (Toranova 1982, no. 52, p. 188. Deutsche Goldschmiedekunst 1987, fig. 17, p. 97. Kolba 1996, no. 17, p. 39). The individual details, however, do not constitute a homogeneous style, but are rather drawn from a number of different traditions, converging on an area somewhere to the north of the Danube. The lid of a sixteenth-century pitcher in Eger (Hungary), decorated in the Ottoman style, has a similar circlet of obviously Late Gothic palmettes, and its small handle in many ways resembles the base of the cross surmounting the lid of this chalice (Gerelyes 1994 (2), no. 75, G. Fehrer). Late Gothic palmettes of the style seen here are found on chalices in Wallachia, as finials on the arabesque-decorated corolla supporting the bowl (Nicolescu 1968, nos. 102 and 103, pp. 115-6). Similar trefoil panels decorate an older Ottoman pitcher of rock crystal, while the engraved palmettes remind us that the indirect influence of Islamic art, which in Western Europe shaped one of the sixteenth century's most characteristic styles, persisted much longer in Hungary, and particularly in Transylvania (Atil 1987, fig. 58, p. 127. Gerelyes 1994 (1), pp. 61-5, figs. 7 and 8).

The goldsmith, Photis, who so modestly engraved his name on this work, may have intended it as a vessel to contain the consecrated bread. The Church of the Koimesis in Lindos (Rhodes) has a very similar chalice, signed by Photis in 1638: while the foot and stem are of the same design as in this example, and the base is engraved with the same inscription, the bowl of the Lindos chalice is round, and the engraved decoration represents seraphim.

Bibliography: Unpublished.

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