Hanging Lamp in the Form of a Sandaled Right Foot


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 301

One of the classical protective images adapted by Christians was the foot, a symbol of good health and healing. These lamps were lit by an oil-soaked wick, inserted through the hole beside the foot’s big toe.

Round flat hanging lamps, or polycandela, were lit by oil-filled glass vessels hung from the round holes in their designs. Paul the Silentiary in 563 described the effect of huge hanging lamps that lit the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople: “Thus is everything clothed in beauty…no words are sufficient to describe the illumination in the evening: you might say that some nocturnal sun filled the majestic church with light.”

Hanging Lamp in the Form of a Sandaled Right Foot, Copper alloy, Byzantine

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