Fragment with an Arch and a Gemmed Cross


Not on view

This vibrantly colored fragment of a hanging is a rare example of the survival of an Egyptian textile that may have been part of the furnishings of a Christian site. It is one of two similar fragments given to the Museum by Nanette B. Kelekian. Each is decorated with an arch enclosing an elaborately jeweled form of the Christian cross. No other works of the type are known to have survived. The pieces were probably once part of one large hanging embellished with a series of arches supported by columns.

One capital, adorned with grape clusters, and a portion of a column remain on the right edge of this fragment. The cross under the arch has been combined with the Greek letter chi (X) to from a variant on the Christogram widely used by the early church as an abbreviation for the name of Christ.

The patterns on the textile replicate those found on contemporary Egyptian stone carvings, which would have been painted in similarly brilliant colors. Christianity spread widely in Egypt, the country in which monasticism first developed. When complete, the hanging may have been used in a doorway or to screen off an interior part of a church.

Fragment with an Arch and a Gemmed Cross, Linen, wool, Byzantine

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