The faith of Sergios carries the venerable receptacle of Demetrios’ blood together with the balm. He asks to have you as protector, while he is living, and when he is dead, along with the two martyrs who have won the prize.
According to its inscription, this pendant reliquary once contained both the blood of the fourth-century soldier martyr Demetrios of Thessaloniki, and his balm, a miraculous perfumed oil that flowed from a fountain at the Church of Saint Demetrios in Thessaloniki. On the cover, the saint wears armor and bears a shield. These attributes, combined with the presence on the reverse of two other soldier martyrs mentioned in the inscription, Sergios and Bacchos, suggest that the owner, also named Sergios, may have been a military man and may have invoked Demetrios’s special protection in battle. Indeed, many of the posthumous sightings of the saint had occurred among soldiers fighting battles in Thessaloniki in the seventh century.
On the inside of the reliquary, two doors open to reveal a tiny relief of the Saint, reclining under an arch or dome, dressed not in armor, but in the long chlamys of the aristocrat. This concealed image refers to other miraculous appearances of Demetrios at his shrine. Even in the early history of his cult, there seems to have been some uncertainty as to the exact whereabouts of his remains. His miracles tended to occur, then, not around the church’s crypt, but in a little domed structure in the nave called the ciborion, inside of which he was seen in visions sitting or reclining on a couch. The witnesses often recognized the saint because he was dressed as he was in his icons. Such stories reveal, as does the little effigy inside this reliquary, the intimate connection between visual and spiritual perception in Byzantium.
- J. Hanson
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