Late 700s or early 800s
Cloisonné enamel mounted in gold, the frame silver-gilt
Width 5.5cm x height 8.5cm
Museum no. 265-1886
The front of the cross shows Jesus Christ crucified between his mother (the Virgin Mary) and St John the Evangelist (who was one of his followers). There is an abbreviated inscription in Greek for 'Behold thy son' and 'Behold thy mother'. The cross has a cavity that originally would have contained holy relics. In this case case the relic was probably a wooden fragment considered by the owner to be a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified.
On the back is a standing figure of the Virgin with both her hands raised in a gesture of prayer. The Virgin is surrounded by images of Saints John, Peter, Andrew and Paul, followers of Christ in the first century AD.
Reliquary crosses were popular with the wealthy in the Byzantine Empire, the territory centred around the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). Enamelled examples like this are very rare and the precise date and place of manufacture are still open to debate.