A resident of the Sawin commune (Lubelskie Voivodeship) gave the conservation services an item he found accidentally in a field. It is a medieval reliquary in the form of an opening cross. Centuries ago, such emperors or clergymen wore them. One of the inscriptions placed on it has the order of two letters changed. As experts say, this is not a mistake, but a deliberate operation. It was believed that this form of writing strengthens the protective function of the reliquary.
– In this type of artifacts, relics of saints were stored, or fragments of biblical texts written on parchment – says Paweł Wira, head of the Chełm branch of the Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments in Lublin.
It is a reliquary in the shape of an opening cross, which was handed over to the conservation services by a resident of the Sawin commune. He found it by chance in the field.
Reliquaries in this shape were worn by emperors and clergy
– He was lying on the surface. It happens that this type of artifacts are found during plowing or after the ground has been washed away by rain, describes Wira.
Reliquaries of this type were intended to be worn on the chest. In the Middle Ages, they were called encolpions or pectorals. In addition to the cross, they took the shape of a fish, heart or anchor.
– Cross-shaped encolpions were worn by emperors and church dignitaries. They were both a sign of distinction and a form of confession of faith. But also a request for protection and protection from evil. They also commemorated baptism or a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, explains our interlocutor.
He adds that the reliquary in question is dated to the 12th-13th century.
– He was found unvaccinated. What was inside is a mystery.
As he says, the reliquary is in very good condition. – It is cast in bronze, and the preserved traces show that it was originally gilded – he describes.
On the obverse there is a perfectly legible, made in the form of a flat engraving depiction of Christ Crucified with a visible cross. On the reverse, we see an Orthodox cross with arms slightly widening towards the ends and inscriptions.
The “mirror reflection” was supposed to strengthen the protective function of the reliquary
– We have here the monogram IC XC, i.e. from the Greek Iesous Christos – Jesus Christ, and on the vertical bar the inscription ИНKA instead of НИКА, i.e. from the Greek NIKA – Winner/Winner. This form of writing is not an error, but a “mirror image” of the inscription НИКА. The order of the first two letters was changed, although there were reliquaries where all the letters were “mirror images”. It was believed that this form of writing strengthens the protective function of the reliquary – he says.
It is the best-preserved reliquary that has been found in the Chełm branch of the WUOZ. There are several such artifacts in museum collections, but they are not complete. This one will go to the collection of the Museum of the Chełm Land. Wiktor Ambroziewicz in Chełm.
Main photo source: Paweł Wira/ WUZ in Lublin