Greek icon | Sanctification Cross

Sanctification Cross A-12

Greece, probably Mount Athos, signed and dated on the base:
Dionisios hieromonachos, 1787
Wood, silver gilt, enamel, glass-paste and pearls, 25 x 12 cm

Provenance:
Private collection, USA
Purchased by Jan Morsink Ikonen, 1996
Private collection, The Netherlands, since 1997
ALR Ref. No. S00151414

Bibliography:
Karin Braamhorst, Ikonen Lexicon, Warnsveld 2004, p. 23
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This finely made cross, decorated with minutely carved scenes, in all probability was used as an altar cross. Despite the small scale of the scenes, the craftsman has suggested a sense of depth and sculptural drama through the virtuosity of his carving and attention to detail. Many areas are pierced right through. The surface of the silver-gilt mount is covered with filigree ornaments in mainly floral motifs, filled with enamel in different shades of green, blue and yellow. A pair of large enamelled dragons occupy the area below the horizontal arms.
 
The cross shows episodes from the cycle of the great church feasts, known as the Dodekaorton in Greek, miracles, and saints. Each scene is set underneath an arched opening and against an architectural background. The iconographic program does not follow a strictly chronological order. The central compositions on either side of the cross show two highly important events from the life of Christ: the Baptism and the Crucifixion. The Crucifixion scene is surrounded by the following scenes on the vertical and horizontal arms of the cross: the  Doubting Thomas, the Resurrection of Lazarus, the Man of Sorrows, the Apostles St Peter and St Paul holding a model of the church symbolising the union of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, and the Anastasis. The scene of the Baptism on the reverse is surrounded by the Annunciation, the Healing of the Blind Man, the Entrance of the Virgin into the Temple, the Empress St Helena and the Emperor St Constantine holding the True Cross and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
 
The most probable place of manufacture of this cross is Mount Athos in northern Greece, where a large number of this type and its variants are kept. The celebrated monastic community of Athos, consisting of twenty monasteries ‒ the oldest dating to 963 ‒ was a centre of miniature woodcarving between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. From documentary evidence, we know that wooden crosses of a similar type had been used on Mount Athos as an altar and processional crosses since the late sixteenth or early 17th century (Arell 2006, p. 115; Athanasios 1997, pp. 298, 299).
 
Simon Morsink
 
Arell 2006
Berndt Arell, Athos - Monastic Life of the Holy Mountain, Helsinki 2006
 
Athanasios 1997
Athanasios, Treasures of Mount Athos (exhib. cat), Thessaloniki 1997