Public lecture at the Bibliotheca Hertziana–Max Planck Institut for Art History, Rome
Dr. Francesca Dell'Acqua
Toccare il Dio Incarnato. Amuleti e preghiera ‘tattile’ durante l’Iconoclasmo bizantino tra Bisanzio e Roma 21 Jan 2019, h 18.00
This lecture will focus on pectoral crosses which functioned as relic containers and amulets and were characterised by figural imagery as well as by inscriptions.
Apparently produced between the late eighth and the early ninth centuries, their geographical origins are still contested between Byzantium and Rome, while other alternatives have yet to be fully considered.
These pectoral crosses bear inscriptions in Greek which have been interpreted as ‘incorrect’, but instead seem to reflect the conventions of spoken language in an evolving hellenophone Mediterranean. These inscriptions were possibly intended to be read during private prayer and meditation while holding the pendant hanging from one’s neck.
In particular, I will focus on a now lost enkolpion, whose inscriptions in Latin and Greek reveal it was intended for an audience familiar with both languages, at least in religious practices.
One of its inscriptions quotes a well-known liturgical hymn sung at Mass before the celebration of the Eucharist and offers scope for a wider investigation into the function as well as cultural origins of such pectoral crosses.
The combination of figural illustrations, variety of precious materials, relics, and inscriptions on such pectoral crosses was probably aimed at eliciting a sort of tactile prayer and at suggesting multiple ways to apprehend the Incarnate Logos: by looking at, touching, reading, praying, meditating, and kissing the container.