The Armenian Skevr Reliquary – 1293 AD

The Armenian Skevr Reliquary – 1293 ADThis marvelous folding reliquary icon, the work of a medieval Armenian craftsman, has been once kept in one of the Cilician monasteries. The icon was commissioned by Bishop Constantine in commemoration of the defenders of the fortress of Romkla, a national sacred site, which had been ruined by the Egyptian Mamelukes in 1292.

The themes of this artifact represent contemporary events and heroes of the Armenian history. Apart from that, the themes and personalities depicted in it were taken from the Old and New Testament.

The Skevr Reliquary was created in 1293, and now, it is a part of the State Hermitage Museum. This wonderful monument of the Armenian applied art consists of three parts: a nut-wood container for relics, as well as two folds to cover that container. The cross in the center of the figure depicting crucified Christ is surrounded by a tar mass, in which can be seen the inscriptions mentioning the relics of saints. The folds inside the reliquary feature scenes of Annunciation, figures of three saints, and King Hethum II in the medallions.

According to the poem at the back of the central part, the Skevr Reliquary was executed by the commission of the Father Superior of Skevr cloister Constantine in Skevr in 1293. Since those times up until 1828 when it was discovered in Italy, the reliquary’s existence has been kept in obscurity. The first modern account of the reliquary dates to 1828 and belongs to Baron Papaziants, an interpreter of the diplomatic office of Sardinia in Constantinople. At the time, the Skevr Reliquary was kept in the Dominican Monastery of Bosco-Marengo near Alexandria in Piedmont.

The reliquary would later appear in the collection of Basilevsky, which was acquired for the Emperor’s Hermitage. The reliquary would be restored at the Hermitage Museum in 1900.

Armenian Reliquary 1293 AD, Cilicia. – Hermitage Museum, Russia – Wood, silver, gilt 63.5 x 69.5 cm (unfolded). Skevr Reliquary 1293 AD, Cilicia. – Hermitage Museum, Russia

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