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Constantine and Sylvester; Archangel Michael, and Johsua

11th century
silver, gilding and niello

On view


Additional Images
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Additional Image Detail, left arm
Detail, left arm
Additional Image Detail, right arm
Detail, right arm
Additional Image Detail, upper arm
Detail, upper arm

These fragments almost certainly derive from a type of processional cross known from examples in the Cluny Museum in Paris (accession no. Cl. 23295) and in the Cleveland Museum of Art (accession no. 70.36), both of which are made of iron and overlaid in silver with repoussé decoration on the front and gold and niello decoration on the reverse. The left and right fragments of the Dumbarton Oaks cross depict the miraculous appearance of archangels and therefore probably belong together. The work on the top fragment, however, differs slightly in the style of the inscription. The letters are smaller and thinner, and the alpha and the lambda both have leftward serifs. The figural style, on the other hand, has much in common with the other pieces and can therefore also be dated to the eleventh century.

The top arm depicts the Emperor Constantine bowing before the Pope Saint Sylvester who blesses with his right hand and holds a diptych of Saints Peter and Paul in his left. According to the Acts of Saint Sylvester, Constantine had been cured from leprosy when he encountered a vision of two holy men. Later, when Sylvester showed him the icon, he confirmed their identities as the princes of the apostles.

The left arm shows the archangel Michael using his spear to guide a stream of water. This refers to a miracle in which the church and town of Chonae were threatened by flood waters, until the archangel appeared and diverted them. At the bottom the witness Archippos prostrates himself before the vision.

The right arm shows Joshua encountering an archangel. Joshua is depicted twice, once standing, and again bowing before the archangel.

- J. Hanson

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 23, no. 79, pl. 79.

R. J. H. Jenkins and E. Kitzinger, "A Cross of the Patriarch Michael Cerularius with an Art-Historical Comment," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 21 (1967): 233-49.

A. Grabar, "Romilly J.H. Jenkins, 'A cross of the patriarch Michael Cerularius' suivi d'un 'Art historian comment', par Ernst Kitzinger dans 'Dumbarton Oaks Papers, XXI, 1967, p. 233-249," Cahiers archéologiques 20 (1970): 235-36.

C. Mango, "The Byzantine Collection," Apollo 119 (1984): 21-29, fig. 10.

J.-P. Caillet, "La croix byzantine du musée de Cluny," La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France 38 (1988): 214-16, fig. 15b.

C. Mango, "La croix dite de Michel le Cérulaire et la croix de Saint-Michel à Sykeon," Cahiers archéologiques 36 (1988): 41-49, fig. 1, 2.

J. A. Cotsonis, Byzantine Figural Processional Crosses,ed. S.A. Boyd and H. Maguire, Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection Publications 10 (Washington, D.C., 1994), 81-83, no. 5, fig. 29.

R. Cormack, M. Vasilaki, and B. Mouseio, Byzantium, 330-1453, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, October 25, 2008 - March 22, 2009, (London: New York, 2008), 427.

Exhibition History
Dumbarton Oaks, "The St. Peter Icon of Dumbarton Oaks," 1983.

Dumbarton Oaks, "Byzantine Figural Processional Crosses," Sept. 23, 1994 - Jan. 29, 1995.

Acquisition History
Purchased from George Zacos, Istanbul by John S. Thacher, 1964.

Gift of John S. Thacher to Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, September 1964.

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