Gold and enamel pendant reliquary

Thessaloniki, 11th century

Gold, enamel; D. 37.00mm


Three inscriptions identify the figures and history behind this complex small box. On the base is a medallion enamelled with a half-length bust of St George. He is identified by red letters and surrounded by a Greek inscription which translates, '[The wearer] prays that you will be his fiery defender in battles' (ΑΙΤΕΙ CΕ ΘΕΡΜΟΝ ΦΡΟΥΡΟΝ ΕΝ ΜΑΧΑΙC ΕΧΕΙΝ). Around the rim of the box is another Greek inscription, also in enamel: 'Anointed with your blood and myrrh' (ΑΙΜΑΤΙ TѠ CѠ ΚΑΙ ΜΥΡѠ ΚΕΧΡΙCΜΕΝΟΝ). This refers to the relics of St Demetrius, who is shown on the other side of the box, lying in his shrine in the church of his name at Thessaloniki. There are parallels in thirteenth-century Crusader art for the figure of St Demetrius. The enamelled panel with the saint is actually a hinged flap which opens to reveal a gold effigy of the saint and a place for his relics. A much later inscription, in Georgian, is engraved on the annular gold section of the lid. It was added in the mid-eighteenth century and suggests that the reliquary once contained a fragment of the True Cross which belonged to St Kethevan, a Georgian queen martyred by the Persian ruler Shah Abbas I in 1624.

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The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016