Polycandelon with Crosses

Date: 500–700

Culture: Byzantine

Medium: Copper alloy

Dimensions: Ht. with chain 14 in. (35.5cm)
Diam. of plate: 10 7/16 (26.5cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Copper alloy

Credit Line: Gift of Miriam N. Rosen, 2002

Accession Number: 2002.483.7


Oil-filled glass vessels once hung from the round openings in this flat, circular hanging lamp, or polycandelon. Such lamps cast beautiful shadows on walls, magnifying the designs of their disks on walls and floors. The shadows from this lamp, which is decorated with crosses radiating from the center, would have emphasized its Christian symbolism. Enormous hanging lamps may have been used to light the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which the poet and courtier Paul the Silentiary described in 563: "Thus is everything clothed in beauty … no words are sufficient to describe the illumination in the evening: you might say that some nocturnal sun filled the majestic church with light."