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Corner with inscription
Edge, with Inscription
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.
Among the many unique objects found in the Sion Treasure were wide rolled sheets and carefully folded sections of silver that were recognized as the top surface and the inscribed edges of an altar, providing tangible evidence for this treatment of an altar in the early Byzantine period known from written sources. The honor that the altar held in the church service was further reflected in the silver nails used to attach the edges of the altar with the inscription to the altar’s presumably original wooden core.
For purposes of display, one end of the altar has been restored, made up of one of four top sections and the inscribed edges around it. When complete, the entire inscription revealed that the altar had been dedicated by a Bishop Paregoros. His relationship to Bishop Eutychianos, the major donor of the Sion Treasure is not known. The repoussé inscription reads, +Paregoros, most humble bishop, offers [this] to Christ the True God for the memory and repose of his parents, and brothers, and their children (nieces and nephews), and Nicholas, Se[sic] Severus, and Apphianos, the lector.
- S. Zwirn
I. ?ev?enko, "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. 39 n. 2, 49 n. 77, 50 n. 80.
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. 5, 12, 18 n. 87, 32-33, 39 n.2, fig. S61.1-4, checklist no. 61.
S. Boyd, "Literary Evidence for Silver Tomb Revetments in the Early Christian Period," in Thymiama: Ste Mneme tes Laskarinas Boura 1 (Athens, 1994), 35-38, fig. 17-18.
G. Bühl, ed., Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections (Washington, D.C., 2008), 90-92, pl. p. 93.
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.