Early Christian Silver

Sacred and domestic

Authored by: Ruth Leader-Newby

The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138857223
eBook ISBN: 9781315718835
Adobe ISBN:


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Christians of the fourth through seventh centuries ce used silver in the form of vessels, both sacred and secular, and for decorative revetments in churches and saints’ shrines. While written sources record imperial donations of silver objects and furnishings weighing hundreds of pounds to churches in Rome and Constantinople, surviving examples of liturgical silver are more modest. Their decoration tends to focus on Christian symbols such as the chi-rho and the cross, and complex figural scenes are the exception. This may have been a deliberate choice arising from the sacred function of these pieces. In the domestic sphere, items from fourth-century silver hoards illustrate how Christianity was integrated into the self-image of the late Roman elite, while sixth- and seventh-century pieces from the eastern Empire show the subsequent evolution of Christian identity in the domestic sphere.

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