Saints

Saints

Although rare on imperial seals, there are a few examples that show personal saints with the emperors. As with private individuals, a number of factors influenced the choice of saint to appear on a particular seal. In the Dumbarton Oaks collection, there are four saints depicted: Basil (on a token), Constantine, Theodore, and Demetrios. Two of these belong to emperors who share their names with the saints: Basil I and Theodore I. St. Basil is shown in ecclesiastical garb, holding his right hand in blessing and a book in his left. On Theodore I's seal, St. Theodore Stratelates is depicted in armor, holding a shield in his left hand. Constantine the Great, restorer of the Roman Empire and founder of Constantinople, was chosen by Alexios III and is depicted on both his seals and coins. Constantine merges the divine protection of a saint with the secular associations of empire and successful rule—two things needed by a usurper who came to power after blinding his brother. The saint is shown on the obverse in his imperial regalia, mirroring Alexios III on the reverse. Finally, St. Demetrios appears on seals of the emperor of Thessalonike, John Komnenos Doukas (top right). On these seals the saint has his arm around the emperor and gestures towards the city. Demetrios was the patron saint of Thessalonike city and had long embodied the city's independence and civic pride. The choice of St. Demetrios follows the strategy of selecting the patron saint of a city, just as emperors in Constantinople depicted the Mother of God, protectress of the capital.

 

More Exhibit Items

Victory and Angel
Victory and Angel

The Mother of God
The Mother of God

Crosses
Crosses

Christ
Christ

Saints
Saints

Divinities Enthroned
Divinities Enthroned

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