Steatite is a soft stone that was used during the middle Byzantine period for the manufacture of lavish items for private worship, such as encolpia and small, relief icons. This horse-shoe shaped steatite item in Sinai bears the marks of continuous use, and depicts the scene of the Crucifixion under an arch supported on two slender columns. The unusually long top crossarm, the bulky figures, and the somewhat crudely rendered fabric folds, detract from the artistic value of this item. The silver mounting that holds together the steatite piece, has a number of rings on its perimeter that may have originally been intended to hold suspended pearls. The back side bears a crudely embossed figure of the Virgin holding the Christ Child on the right, and an inscription identifying the owner as Priest-monk Maximos.


Deep-brown statite Silver mounting with embossed figures
Fourteenth-fifteenth century
Height 8.7 cm
St. Catherine's Monastery Saint Catherine, South Sinai Governorate