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This Marble Box Lid with Two Equal-Armed Crosses in Relief on Sides is Lid to Christian

This marble box lid with two equal-armed crosses in relief on the sides is the lid to a Christian reliquary from 5th or 6th century AD Antioch. Only this lid has been found, but its size indicates that it once covered a small marble box used as a reliquary, meaning that it held the remains of one or more saints. In shape, it imitates the lid of a sarcophagus with gable ends and corner acroteria. In and around Antioch such reliquaries were often displayed in chapels dedicated to martyr saints. The remains of local Antiochene saints such as Babylas, Thecla, or the two pillar saints named Simeon may well have been interred in this manner. In early Christian practice, a hole on one side of the lid allowed oil or balm to poured into the reliquary. The enriched oil, made sacred and imbued with healing qualities through its contact with the holy relics, was released through a hold near the bottom of the box and distributed to worshippers and pilgrims as a momento or as medication for soothing physical ailments. Late 5th to early 6th century AD, Antioch. Marble, 3-5/8 x 10-1/2 x 14 inches. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C., inv. 40.46. Acquired during the Antioch excavations. Information from Antioch: The Lost Ancient City, 224.

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