Peculiar Objects

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In the permanent Exhibition of the Byzantine & Christian Museum we can see various objects which describe to us different aspects of life of the people that lived in Byzantine and post-Byzantine era. Some of these objects that now seem peculiar and unfamiliar raise questions about the way that they were made, about their use and / or about their importance.

Let’s discover them!


One of the most interesting and peculiar exhibits of the Byzantine and Christian Museum, the double-sided panel with a depiction of a gorgoneion (5th-6th c) and a cross at the other side (6th-7th c.) is presented in Museum’s permanent exhibition as a sample for the Christianization of the ancient sculpture that was used for the decoration of the temples of the new religion. 


It was discovered in a Roman villa in Lechaion (Corinth) in 1894.




Made of stone, lead, glass, and above all bronze, the standard weights were used to weigh goods for sale and coins. In the icon: Imperial standard weight of bronze inlaid with silver, with a representation of the emperors Justin I and Justinian I. 6th c. Imperial standard weights were used to verify the weight of gold coins (solidi).

6th century.




12th century. Marble closure panel in which a pair of confronted sphinxes are holding a deer in their claws with the Tree of Life between them. Sphinxes, winged mythical creatures with the head of a woman and the body of a lion were interpreted as symbols of wisdom and power by the Ancient Greeks and the Eastern civilizations. For the Byzantines, at least till 11th century, spinxes seem to have been identified with demons and their depiction in art was apotropaic-in order to expel the evil.  The Tree of Life is also a symbol that is common in many religions. According to the Christian one, it is standing in the middle of the Paradise symbolizing eternal life and immortality.

12th century.



13th c. marble sculpture from Jerusalem. Marble sculpture in the shape of a closed book with carved decoration. One side of the book’s cover is decorated with a calf’s head, the other with a crowned male form, probably King David, with an illegible inscription.
13th c. marble sculpture from Jerusalem.

The capital which is from Zakynthos belongs to the Western decorative tradition of churches or other buildings with masks or other pagan motifs. The meaning of these decorative patterns was complex and somebody could understand it only if he knew the use of the building from which they came.

13th c.



Middle Byzantine period. Chafing dish. Glazed fireproof clay vessel in the shape of an inverted cone, with two handles. Used for preparing and serving sauces. At the top of the vessel is an open plate, the contents of which were kept warm by placing charcoal beneath it through the triangular hole in the side.
St. Christopher depicted with the head of a dog. From the 5th century on, it was widely believed in Byzantium that the saint was one of the mythic dog-heads, a barbarian race without the gift of human speech. Nevertheless his depiction as a dog-head had not been the dominant one in the Byzantine art, since the Byzantine Church frowned upon the linking of one of its saints with the cynocephali. In the post-Byzantine art, though, especially from the 17th c. onwards, the Orthodox artists several times paint the Saint as a dog-head.
Portable icon (1681) from Cappadocia.
The scene is allegorical. The theme is the measurement of time, from the birth to the death of every man: at the outer periphery of a moving wheel stand seven representatives, one for every age (each age is covering ten years). At the bottom of the wheel, a dragon symbolizing death prepares to devour the representative of the seventh age. At the sides of the dragon there are two figures, symbols of Day and Night, which move the wheel of time.
Late 18th-early 19th c.

Sisoes, a hermit pursuing ascetism in Egypt is visiting the tomb of Alexander the Great. Looking at the dead hero he is meditating on the futility of earthly life.

Portable icon, late 18th-early 19th c. Probably from Dalmatia.


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In the church, the Christian believers sometimes implement practices in order to exterminate demons and to ensure their physical and mental health. The Church theoretically discouraged such practices, but, in the pass of centuries, it eventually accepted some of them.
A relevant example is the use of the therapeutic collars. The person, who was physically or mentally ill, was wearing the neck collar, while the end of its chain was tied at some place of the church. Patients remained tied for some time, hoping to experience a miraculous healing. Sometimes the collars were simply anathems to the therapist saint.
The therapeutic collars are evidence of the exercise of prescientific medicine and of the survival of folk beliefs and medieval practices in modern years.
19th c. Asia Minor.
A rare scene. In the center rises a purple column, on top of which is seated a young male winged figure. It is Eros, which is blindfolded and blows two trumpets, one pointing to the right and one to the left. Lower, at the base of the column, two dragons are depicted. In their open mouths two winged, naked young figures, one female and one male seem to be trapped.
The combination of text and image reveals an allegory of the erotic passion. The two young people leave the passion to guide them, to devour them, i.e. to weaken them physically and spiritually; their love leads them to their doom.
Painted by Defterevon Sifnios. 1825.