The Sion Treasure (BZ.1963.36.1-3,11 and BZ.1965.1.1,5,12) is an extensive and varied group of liturgical objects and church furnishings discovered in the early 1960s in southern Turkey. A significant part of this treasure is in Dumbarton Oaks, while much of it is housed in the Antalya Museum, with a few pieces in private collections. The treasure’s name derives from the niello inscription on an oblong polycandelon mentioning “Holy Sion,” possibly the church or the monastery for which the objects were made. Many Sion Treasure items are inscribed for a Bishop Eutychianos, who is otherwise unknown. Several other individuals are named, but they, too, are unknown among historical sources. Many objects are unique—for example, a cross-shaped polycandelon and a peacock censer. Almost all the objects in the treasure are of exceptionally high quality, and many were in excellent condition when they were found, like the patens. Some pieces, however, were bent or crushed, suggesting that they were going to be melted down and their metal reused. If, as is supposed, the treasure was buried during the early seventh century, when Sasanian invasions were followed by Arab incursions, the Byzantine imperial authorities most likely were calling in church silver to mint coins in order to pay the wages of the emperor’s army.
These patens (BZ.1963.36.2 and BZ.1963.36.3) are almost twins and seem to have been made as a pair except for their different inscriptions. Each has a tall Latin cross in the center with a rim of alternating gilt and polished silver lobes. The inscription on one reads, “For the memory and repose of Angeleuos Rufinus of illustrious memory"; the other is dedicated, “For the memory and repose of John, of God-loving memory and Procle, his daughter."
The spare design of these patens has an elegance that rivals the elaborate decoration on the larger Chi-Rho paten (see p. 102). Because these patens were integral to the celebration of the Eucharist, they were carefully stacked and stored when buried for protection, which explains the pristine state of their surfaces and the survival of all their crisp detailing. They are in near perfect condition. The burial of such an extensive ecclesiastical treasure as the Sion Treasure was probably the effort to hide it from invading forces or preserve it from the moneyer’s furnace. Liturgical history and archaeology have again benefited from what the seventh century had to sacrifice.
- S. Zwirn
Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 18-19, no. 64, table 1.
The Archbishop Lakovos Library of Ecclesiastical and Historical Sources, vol. 10 The Life of Saint Nicholas of Sion, trans. I. Sevcenko and N.P. Sevcenko (Brookline, Mass., 1984), pl. 14.
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. 11, 12, 15-16, 20, fig. S4.1-3, checklist no. 4.
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. 47 n. 67.
G. Bühl, ed., Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections (Washington, D.C., 2008), 90-91, 100, pl. p. 101.
H. Hunter-Crawley, "The Cross of Light: Experiencing Divine Presence in Byzantine Syria," in Experiencing Byzantium: Papers from the 44th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Newcastle and Durham, April 2011, Publications of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies ed. C. Nesbitt and M. Jackson (Farnham, Surrey, UK; Burlington, VT, 2013), 390 p., esp. 180, fig. 10.1.
Purchased from George Zacos (dealer) by Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, Switzerland, 1963.
Given by Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss to Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., 1963.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.