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Reliquary holders decorated with scenes from the Christological cycle, as a reference to the Holy Land, were particularly popular during the early period after Iconoclasm. Such scenes from the New Testament epitomized the basic dogmatic principles of the Incarnation and Salvation; when these scenes decorated such reliquaries that were also fashioned in the form of a cross and contained pieces of the Holy Wood, as the one displayed here, they were considered to further enhance the apotropaic properties of the cross itself. This is a personal amulet, hence, the patron Saint of the owner, in this case Saint Thomas, was also depicted on the cross. This item is associated both in terms of iconography and technique with a group of lavish amulets that date to the early ninth and tenth century, and are considered to have been made in Constantinople or other major urban centers.


Details

Cast copper alloy with inlaid silver and niello
Ninth-tenth century
Height 13 cm
St. Catherine's Monastery Saint Catherine, South Sinai Governorate