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Byzantine Ivory Relief: Procession

Byzantine ivory relief of a reliquary procession dating from the 5th century. It was probably made in Constantinople to decorate the side of a reliquary. Depicting a procession of relics into a city with crowds of spectators looking on, this magnificent panel is filled with action and detail. It is an artifact of great importance, not only for its age and artistic qualities but also for what it reveals about the veneration of relics and court ceremony in Late Antiquity. Its minute detail allows historians to observe even the garments and gestures of the Byzantine empire. It shows a relic shrine accompanied by two priests sitting in an ornate four-wheeled wagon drawn by mules. In front are men carrying candles, who are being received by the Empress, who holds a wooden cross. Behind her stands a church where the relic will be enshrined, which was not quite finished in time: workers are still laying tiles on the roof. In the background, men look out of windows while singing hymns and swinging censers.

Photo © Holly Hayes.

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