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The Great Fast is almost nigh!


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Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and with it the season of fasting and lent! Part of my resolutions for this period are to cut out online usage and (hard as this will be) the amount of time I spend on coins. In that vein of thought, I will far less (if at all) active during this period. One fun aspect of Byzantine coinage is the wide variety of iconographic depictions of Christ, Mary, the Saints, and other Angelic beings. Outside of the usual scenes found on coinage, lead seals and other associated medallions often take fresh (numismatically speaking, at least) approaches to the rich tradition of Christian art.

One such example celebrating the central elements of Christianity and this great lenten time of year is a medallion currently being offered by Leu Numismatic. It is not mine and based on the current bid, wont ever be😁! The exquisite middle byzantine style has obviously attracted some deep pockets. 



(From Leu:)

Anonymous, second half of the 11th-12th century. Medallion (Bronze, 48 mm, 52.48 g, 12 h). IC - XC - I/Δ/૪ / H - [MHP] / C/૪ - I/Δ/Є / Ⲱ - V/O / C/૪ ('Jesus Christ - Behold, your mother! - Behold, your son!') The Crucifixion: Christ crucified, wearing a cloth around his waist and a large nimbus cruciger; in upper left and right fields, Sun and Moon; to left, Saint John; to right, the Mother of God; both nimbate; all within a pearled border intersected with globules. Rev. + H ANAC/TACHC / IC-XC The Resurrection: Christ advancing to right, raising Adam from Hell, Eve standing behind; between them, lock and key to the gates of Hell; all within a pearled border intersected with globules. Cf. S. Bendall: An Official Byzantine Religious Medallion or Amulet?, in: Numismatic Circular 98 (2010), 5-6 (for three related medaillons). Roma XVIII (2019), 1316 var. An exceptionally impressive medallion of the finest middle-Byzantine style. Good very fine.

This spectacular medallion shows the Crucifixion ('Staurosis' in Greek) on one side in a traditional scene with Saint John and the Mother of God. The legend is taken from the Gospel of John (19:26-27), which describes how Christ beheld his mother and his beloved disciple standing at the Cross, upon which he uttered 'Woman, behold your son!' to Mary, and 'Behold your mother!' to Saint John, after which the latter took Mary into his own home. The other side of the medallion shows the Resurrection ('Anastasis' in Greek), more specifically the Harrowing of Hell, i.e. the period between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection on Easter when Christ triumphantly descended into Hell to free the righteous born before the coming of the Savior, starting with Adam and Eve. Though the event is alluded to in different parts of the New Testament, the most complete version of the story can be found in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. As a whole, the medallion celebrates Christ's triumph over death and suffering, with the promise that the same is possible for the true believer.


Happy Lent to those who celebrate and God bless!

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Magnificent example and explication, @TheTrachyEnjoyer, as is usual for your relentlessly substantive contributions.  I can't think of a single more cogent convergence of the Byzantine synthesis of ikony and numismatics --even with the broader range afforded in the latter category.

Granted, I couldn't help thinking of the reputations of several Byzantine emperors of around this period.  Which immediately took me to Henry VIII, the Salem witch trials, and similar high points in another broad tradition of historic Christianity.  Yes, historically, the Byzantine emperors have plenty of competition!  At the moment, what comes through loud and clear is that Christ's primary mission was to save people ...as in, Drum-Roll, Please, from something.  ...Starting with ourselves.  :<}

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