Byzantine Lamp

Openwork Lamp


10th - 11th Century

Tinned copper

3 ¾ x 6 ⅛ inches (9.5 x 15.5 cm)


This tinned copper lamp, hemispherical in shape, has an openwork, cruciform pattern around its body.  A solid band at the top carries an inscription which is rendered in double-stroke lettering.  Translated, the inscription reads “Saviour, grant release from sins.” Three pierced suspension loops protrude vertically from the lamp’s edge.  The bottom of the lamp is adorned with a large cross with volutes between the arms.  This design is framed with a circular band of openwork guilloche.  A glass bowl would have been placed inside the lamp.

Tinned copper was used for a variety of objects in the Byzantine era.  These included patens, chalices, lamps and polycandela.  This practice follows the Early Byzantine process of plating metal to simulate the appearance of others outright or to contrast two metallic tones on a single object, as found in partially gilded silver items.  Political situations and the strategic location of tin mines may also have dictated the use of tinned copper.