A Byzantine Bronze Reliquary Cross
ca. 9th - 11th century
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This cross is an encolpion — a work made to hold relics and to be worn, hung from a chain, on the chest. This example opens like a locket and is decorated and inscribed on the outside. On its face is the engraved depiction of a bearded saint wearing a nimbed halo and richly patterned chlamys schematically shown by incised lines, and holding a cross in his right hand. On either side are the busts of two further saints also wearing nimbed halos. The names of these Byzantine saints are inscribed above. On the reverse are concentric, radiant circles positioned at each terminal as well as the center that provides a dual meaning; they firstly represent the 5 circles or "The 5 Stigmata" the five wounds of Christ. The circles on the north arm represent the wound from the crown of thorns, the two sides the nails in his hands, the bottom, the nails in his feet, and finally the middle circle, the spear wound to his side. The circles also represent the 5 wells: "the Well of Pity, the Well of Mercy, the Well of Grace, the Well of Comfort," and "the Well of Everlasting Life." In ancient times, concentric circle designs were also thought to protect the wearer from the feared "evil eye.". This piece is a beautiful example of Byzantine religious craftsmanship. It combines popular saints with some more local and less common examples on a support worn by the faithful to help them in their daily lives.
Dimensions: Height: 4 7/16 inches (12.5 cm), Width:2 3/8 inches (6 cm)
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall.
Provenance: Private collection of Ambassador Morris Draper ( 1928-2005) and Mrs. Roberta Hornig Draper ( 1933-2021) acquired in Israel in the 1970s.
Ambassador Morris Draper, was a career diplomat and member of the State Department's Foreign Service for over 35 years. Ambassador Draper served the Department of State and the American people faithfully in diplomatic postings in the Near East, Europe, and East Asia, including as Consul General in Jerusalem and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. He was a key player in the Camp David Peace Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979. From 1981-1983, he served as President Reagan's Special Middle East Envoy in negotiations regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon. In many ways our current efforts on behalf of a peaceful, sovereign, independent Lebanon build upon the work Ambassador Draper began over two decades ago.