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Flat Sheathing with Cross and Inscription


Byzantine
mid 6th century
98.8 cm x 37.3 cm (38 7/8 in. x 14 11/16 in.)
silver
BZ.1979.4

On view


Permalink: http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/35151

Additional Images
Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image Detail of inscription
Detail of inscription
Additional Image Reverse, after treatment
Reverse, after treatment


Description
While it is easy to imagine the dazzling effect of the daylight or candlelight reflected from this panel, the piece’s exact position in the church is unknown. It may have formed part of the decoration of the altar or even the walls of the sanctuary. The sheet was originally hammered to a thickness of 0.76-1 millimeter, and then the inscription and cross were hammered in repoussé. It was folded along six lines, perhaps for burial along with other parts of the Sion Treasure, and even seems to have been unfolded and refolded since its discovery.

The inscription reads, “Zacharias, most humble priest, offered this” [literally, “brought forth fruit”]. To speak of fruit to refer to offerings is an evocative metaphor. It occurs in a more literal version in the Old Testament where offerings indeed were agricultural products, and again in the New Testament, the Church Fathers, and even the liturgy. In fact, in the Early Byzantine period, churches and monasteries compared the duty for people to endow them to the duty of the Israelites of the Old Covenant to maintain the priesthood.
J. Hanson


Bibliography
S. A. Boyd, "A 'Metropolitan' Treasure from a Church in the Provinces: An introduction to the Study of the Sion Treasure," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., ed. S.A. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 5-37, esp. 12, 18 n. 87, 33-34, 39 n. 3, pl. S69.1, checklist no. 69.

I. Sevcenko, "The Sion Treasure: The Evidence of the Inscriptions," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., ed. S.A. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 39-56, esp. 43 n. 37, 49 n. 77,78, 50 n. 80, fig. S69.1.


Acquisition History
Found near the Village of Kumluca, Turkey.

Gift of George Zacos to Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, April 1979.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.