Byzantine / Reliquary of the True Cross (Staurotheke) / late 8th-early 9th centuryByzantine
Reliquary of the True Cross (Staurotheke)
late 8th-early 9th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Anatolian; Byzantine
Creator Name-CRT: Byzantine
Title: Reliquary of the True Cross (Staurotheke)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 766
Creation End Date: 833
Creation Date: late 8th-early 9th century
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Enamels
Materials and Techniques: Cloisonné enamel, silver, silver-gilt, gold, niello
Dimensions: 4 x 2 7/8 in. (10.2 x 7.3 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 17.190.715ab
Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Relics of the True Cross on which Christ was crucified were quickly and widely distributed after its legendary discovery in the fourth century by Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor. Throughout the medieval period, such relics were housed in precious containers where they could be venerated by the faithful. This finely made small box decorated with cloisonné enamel and niello is one of the earliest examples of such a reliquary. The sliding lid, decorated with a Crucifixion scene and busts of saints, has four episodes from the life of Christ on its underside-the Annunciation, Nativity, Crucifixion, and Anastasis (or Descent into Limbo). The lid slides back to reveal five interior relic compartments arranged in the shape of a cross. On the lid, Christ, flanked by the mourning figures of the Virgin and Saint John, is shown alive on the cross, wearing a long tunic popular in Eastern depictions of this scene. Pope Innocent IV (r. 1243-54) is said to have owned this reliquary.

AMICA ID: MMA_.17.190.715ab
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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