05 March 2013

Crowns and other valuables

Empress Helena of Byzantium (?) 1437-39.

Lesnovo, Macedonia  

(This entry is taken from an article by Raymond-Joseph Loenertz, the professor of my professor, to which you will find a link at the end.)

Being a Palaiologos emperor in the last 100 years of the Eastern Empire meant being in a perpetual state of humiliation. Several times before 1400, the Emperors had to pawn icons, jewels, and relics in order to obtain money and ships, mostly because of the shameful civil war among members of the ruling families.   In 1390, Manuel II was driven out of Constantinople by his nephew John VII.  He took refuge with the Knights of Rhodes with whom he pawned a remarkable assortment of religious items and crowns to get money and ships. (I have not been able to find any study of the precious items from these various episodes of pawning, and I hope readers will be able to direct me.)

Manuel was finally able to pay off this loan, and on 21 November 1398 he signed off on an inventory to Friar Renaud de Giresme who returned his deposit. This, as best as I can translate, is what Manuel had pawned for his ships:
  • silver box containing a piece of the true cross, with gold fastenings
  • enkolpion* (engol phium) with precious stones, figure of Christ, with gold "pearls"
  • another similar image
  • gold enkolpion, form of a cross, with two pearls
  • image of St. George with 18 precious stones, and with pearls around his head and shield
  • image of the Saints Causoni (? sancti causoni ?) overlaid with gilded silver image of St. Theodore overlaid with gilded silver
  • image of Jesus Christ being taken from the cross overlaid with gold
  • enkolpion with image of the Hodegetria (odigitora) with gold cover
  • small image of the Hodegetria with gold cover
(Now we get to the crowns. For this first one, look at three of the four pictures here, and speculate.)

  • crown with 11 peaks with 11 large green stones and 18 small green stones, and 11 large red stones (rubeos) and 24 small red stones, and two small green stones, and 88 pearls.
  • 2 pearl fillets, one with 24 pearls, and the other with 10

  • silver thurible ** with its cover.
  • large gilded silver cup with a cover.
  • 2 silver ewers with covers.
  • pearl crown with 126 pearls.

  • book of the holy evangelists, completely ornamented, with a key.

Elena of Serbia.

* Enkolpion = sacred image or relic worn on the chest.

Thurible = censer.

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