Fragment of a Processional Cross
Constantinople, 11th century
Silver gilt, niello; 32.30 x 44.80 x 5.70 cm
Impressively large and elaborately embellished, the cross to which this fragment belonged was likely carried in liturgical processions. The central medallion on its front depicts Christ, flanked by medallions showing the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist. Together they form the Deesis, a powerful Byzantine image formula evoking these saints’ intercession with Christ on behalf of mankind. In the central medallion on the cross’s back is Saint Sabas, founder of an important monastery near Jerusalem, in whose honor the cross was made. He is surrounded by other monastic saints, thus indicating that the cross was likely used by a monastic community.