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Anonymous (eleventh/twelfth century)

 
 

Obverse

Half length of the Virgin holding Christ on her left arm and indicating with her right; Christ's leg and arm cross the Virgin in an embrace; their heads are close; the remains of an inscribed epithet are visible. Sigla: Μ̅Θ̅ : Μ(ήτηρ) Θ(εοῦ). Inscription: Η̣|Κ|Μ : ἡ Κα(λα)μ(ιώτισσα) or Η̣|ΚΛ|Μ : ἡ Κ(α)λ(α)μ(ιώτισσα). Border of dots.

Reverse

Bust of St Gerasimos, a monastic saint, holding a small cross in his right hand, the area of the left hand is damaged. Inscription in two columns: .|Γ|̣Ρ|Α|Ι|Μ|Ο : [ὁ ἅ(γιος)] Γεράσιμο(ς). Border of dots.

Obverse

Half length of the Virgin holding Christ on her left arm and indicating with her right; Christ's leg and arm cross the Virgin in an embrace; their heads are close; the remains of an inscribed epithet are visible. Sigla: Μ̅Θ̅ : Μ(ήτηρ) Θ(εοῦ). Inscription: Η̣|Κ|Μ : ἡ Κα(λα)μ(ιώτισσα) or Η̣|ΚΛ|Μ : ἡ Κ(α)λ(α)μ(ιώτισσα). Border of dots.

Reverse

Bust of St Gerasimos, a monastic saint, holding a small cross in his right hand, the area of the left hand is damaged. Inscription in two columns: .|Γ|̣Ρ|Α|Ι|Μ|Ο : [ὁ ἅ(γιος)] Γεράσιμο(ς). Border of dots.

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.3449
Diameter 29.0 mm; field: 16.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 7, 11.5.

Credit Line Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Thomas Whittemore.

Commentary

In Themelis' alphabetical list of epithets of the Virgin there is the Marian epithet Kalamiotissa (Καλαμιώτισσα) referring to a monastic church dedicated to the Virgin with that name on the Greek island of Anafi which housed an icon of the Virgin found among reeds (ἐπὶ καλάμου). For the epithet and the literature for this epithet, see Themelis, “Αἱ Ἐπωνυμίαι τῆς Παναγίας,” Νέα Σιών, 48 (1953), 241-244. However, as seen from the discussion below, the epithet on our seal refers to another homonymous Marian icon and shrine.

 

This image of Saint Gerasimos on a seal is unique. The rarity of his image helps in explaining his pairing with the image of the Virgin holding Christ on her arm and the possible reading of the remains of her accompanying epithet. Gerasimos, whose feast-day is 4 March (Synax CP, 507-508) was a fifth-century monk who founded a lavra in Palestine near the Jordan River. Close by is a cave in which, according to tradition, the Holy Family rested during the Flight into Egypt. This site, too, became a monastic foundation by the fifth century and was known by the name of Kalamon - τὴν λαύραν τοῦ Καλαμώνος (of the reeds). Sometime between the ninth century and 1177, when the Cretan pilgrim-monk John Phocas visited Palestine and described the religious foundation there, the lavra of Saint Gerasimos had fallen into ruins but that the monastery of the Kalamon was active and possessed a miracle-working icon of the Virgin holding the Christ Child that tradition ascribed to Saint Luke and resembled the famed Hodegetria icon in Constantinople (see PG 133: 953). A manuscript copied in 1049/1050, and possibly associated with this monastery, indicates the foundation was dedicated to the Theotokos tou Kalamiou (τοῦ Καλαμίου). Our seal, therefore, represents this conflation of the two Palestinian monastic foundations and may have been issued from a monk belonging to the monastery or to a pilgrim who visited the foundation and venerated the miraculous icon of the Virgin. Also, by the eleventh century, the two previously separate monastic foundations had been united into one. For a discussion of the two monasteries, see Vailhé, “Saint Gérasime,” 106-119. For discussion of the manuscript possibly associated with the Palestinian monastery of the Theotokos Kalamiotissa, see Janin, Grands centres, 154-155, who offers the possibility that the manuscript of 1049/1050 may have originated in the Bithynian monastery also named Theotokos tou Kalamiou, and Papacostas, “Koutsovendis,” 42, who suggests that the manuscript may have come from the Palestinian monastery.