Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Processional Cross

Date:
ca. 1000–1050
Culture:
Byzantine
Medium:
Silver, silver-gilt
Dimensions:
Overall: 23 7/16 x 16 15/16 x 7/8 in. (59.5 x 43 x 2.2 cm) Diameter of central medallion on back: 2 3/8 in. (6 cm) Diameter of central medallion on front: 2 5/16 in. (5.9 cm) width of arms: 5 3/16 in. (13.2 cm) diameter of Michael medallion: 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm) diameter of John the Baptist medallion: 1 5/8 in.
Classification:
Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1993
Accession Number:
1993.163
Not on view
Elaborately decorated crosses were widely used in religious, military, and imperial processions during the Middle Byzantine era. Often, as here, inscriptions in Greek identify the holy figures depicted in portrait busts. On the front of this cross, the central medallion contains a bust of Christ. The archangels Michael and Gabriel, the guardians of heaven, are pictured above and below him. To left and right are the traditional intercessors on behalf of humankind: the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, and John the Forerunner (Saint John the Baptist).

The inscription at the base on the back of the cross identifies it as the votive gift (supplication) of a Bishop Leo. It was probably offered in honor of Saint Thalelaios, a physician, who is shown in the back central medallion with the symbols of his profession, a medical case and the pointed surgical tool known as a lancet. To the sides are saints Nicholas and John Chrysostom, two of the most important early church fathers. The archangels Uriel and Raphael appear at top and bottom. A homily (sermon) attributed to Saint John Chrysostom describes crosses as "power for those who are ill" and "the purification of sickness"; the donation of this cross was perhaps connected to an illness. The cross may have been used in the ceremony for the purification of water, since Thalelaios, a late third-century martyr, is one of the saints named in that service.
Inscription: in Greek: (on the front medallions) [initials for] Jesus Christ, [initials for] Mother of God, [initials for] John the Forerunner, Michael, Gabriel; (on the back medallions) Saint Thalelaios, Saint Nicholas, [initials for] Saint John Chrysostom, Uriel, Raphael; (on foot) supplication of Leo, bishop

[on the foot]: Supplication of Leo, Bishop; [on the medallions on the face]: Jesus Christ, Mother of God, John the Precursor, Michael, Gabriel; [on the medallions on the reverse]: SS. Thalelaios, Nicholas, John Chrysostom, Uriel, Raphael
Private Collection, Israel (by 1969); [ Robert Haber and Associates Inc., Ancient Art(sold 1993)]
Evans, Helen C., and William D. Wixom, ed. The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843–1261. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 25, pp. 62-4.

Wixom, William D., ed. Mirror of the Medieval World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999. no. 101, pp. 86–88.

Dandridge, Pete. "A Study of the Gilding of Silver in Byzantium." In Gilded Metals: History, Technology and Conservation. London: Archetype Publications, 2000. pp. 126-143, fig. 7.3-.4, 7.17-.21, also Table 7.2, p. 140.

Evans, Helen C., Melanie Holcomb, and Robert Hallman. "The Arts of Byzantium." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 58, no. 4 (Spring 2001). p. 41.

Barnet, Peter. "Medieval Europe." In Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1977–2008, edited by James R. Houghton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. p. 25.



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