January 25, 2024

The Casket and Reliquary Containing the Head of Saint Gregory the Theologian

The Head of Saint Gregory the Theologian is one of the most precious relics of the Vatopaidi Monastery. The Patriarch of Jerusalem Chrysanthos Notaras ruled on its authenticity. The Head often traveled with the monks who went out on fundraising campaigns.

In 1709 it was brought to Wallachia, where its rectangular casket was crafted with the help of the ecclesiarch Neophytos. The dedicators of the work were the first wife of the ruler Sherban Cantacuzene and their daughter Maria Balaceanu.

The reliquary of the Head contained in the casket was made twenty-three years later, in 1732, according to the inscription surrounding its base, at the expense of Catherine Rosetti, wife of the ruler of the Hungarian-Vlachs, Constantine Mavrocordatos.

Both works are decorated with similar gilt floral decoration on a silver dotted background, which reveals the influence of the Western European Baroque on Wallachian art. The representation of the Three Hierarchs, with their tall figures, their gold-embroidered robes, and the attempt to render the architectural background, essentially follows the local tradition. The decoration is completed on the cover with pearls and precious stones (which are not preserved today), and on the reliquary with small rosettes.

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