Enkolpion were small pendants worn around the neck, and examples have been found tracing back to Late Antiquity. The cross shape was the most popular symbol for such amulets, as the silhouette was believed to have apotropaic qualities. Many enkolpion were designed to hold reliquaries, as can be seen here by the opening function of the pendant. The reliquary was believed to work in tandem with the talismanic qualities of the cross-shape to protect the wearer from harm and evil. Such pieces were very popular in Byzantium, and were made in an assortment of materials, from gold and silver, to bronze and lead.
Byzantine Reliquary Cross with Mary
A fine example of a Byzantine cross reliquary pendant, made here in bronze. It features a hinged base and loop suspension for wear. On the front of the cross in incised an image of the Mother of God, her arms raised in the Orans position. Above the halo that encircles her head an inscription believed to be an abbreviation of Μητηρ (του) Θεου, meaning “Mother of God”. On the reverse, incised lines lead out from the central point to the ends of each arm of the cross. These points, as well as the centre, are empty, and would originally have held small enamel medallions, possible with a figure in each.
Condition: Very good condition. All lines are clearly visible. On the reverse the enamel medallions are missing.