Exhibitions/ Art Object

Pair of Liturgical Fans (Rhipidia)

11th-12th century
Made in Egypt
Silver, repoussé relief
46.126.1, H: 16 1/16 in., diam: 8 11/16 in. (H: 40.8 cm; diam: 22 cm); 46.126.2, H: 16 1/16 in.; diam: 8 15/16 in. (H: 40.8; diam: 22.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Brooklyn Museum, New York, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund (46.126.1, .2)
Not on view
Deacons waved pairs of rhipidia to protect the bread and wine during the Eucharist. They came to symbolize the six-winged seraphim thought to be present during the service. As demonstrated by these fans, iconography originating in the early Byzantine period persisted into the Islamic era.
Each fan is surrounded by a quotation, written in Greek using Coptic letters, from the Eucharistic prayer of Saint Gregory. A later inscription, "The holy Philotheos," likely refers to the patron of the church that owned the rhipidia. Each fan is decorated with beasts in the book of Revelation: the heads of an ox and a lion on one and the heads of an eagle and an angel on the other. Each creature has six wings like seraphim. The decoration and the inscription reflect the symbolic role of the rhipidia in the liturgy.
Inscription: [Each rhipidion inscribed in Greek using Coptic letters, around the border,
terminating in the middle of a phrase:] Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts, heaven and earth are full of His glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is [he who came and comes in the name of the Lord] ); [on the disk, near the mount of the shaft, in Greek using the Coptic
definite article:] The holy Philotheos
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.