Research Article

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2023.20.1278458   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2023.20.1278458    Full Text (PDF)

The Encolpion Reliquary Crosses from Çobankale

Esra SayınSelçuk Seçkin

Regarding Byzantine religious art, many new discoveries were unearthed with the five-season excavations carried out in Çobankale, located in the Altınova/Yalova. The encolpion reliquary crosses, which this article focuses on, are only a few of these data. Reflecting the most open and private use of personal piety reflected in material culture, the reliquary crosses come to the fore in the Byzantine religious world with their apotropaic meanings as well as their basic religious functions as encolpions. It is thought that the encolpion reliquary crosses, which are a part of the individual belief style in the religious Byzantine society, generally protect individuals from evils, calamity and diseases due to the relics they carry. The aim of this article is to evaluate the reliquary crosses unearthed in the chapel burials in Çobankale and their place in the Byzantine religious world. In this context, based on the narratives of ancient authors about encolpions, the functions of the artifacts were emphasized, and dating suggestions were presented by comparing similar examples in the inventories of museums in different regions of Anatolia and unearthed by excavations.

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2023.20.1278458   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2023.20.1278458    Full Text (PDF)

Çobankale’den Enkolpion Röliker Haçlar

Esra SayınSelçuk Seçkin

Yalova’nın Altınova ilçesinde konumlanan Çobankale’de yürütülen beş sezonluk kazı çalışmaları ile Bizans dinî sanatına ilişkin çok sayıda yeni keşif gün yüzüne çıkartılmıştır. Bu makalenin odaklandığı enkolpion röliker haçlar da bu verilerden yalnızca birkaçını oluşturmaktadır. Kişisel dindarlığın maddi kültüre yansıyan en açık ve mahrem kullanımını yansıtan röliker haçlar da enkolpion olarak temeldeki dinî işlevlerinin yanı sıra apotropaik anlamları ile Bizans dinî dünyasında ön plana çıkmaktadır. Dindar Bizans toplumunda özellikle bireysel inanç biçiminin bir parçası olan enkolpion röliker haçların genellikle içlerinde taşıdıkları rölikler sebebiyle bireyleri kötülükler, felaketler ve hastalıklardan korudukları düşünülmektedir. Bu makalenin amacı, Çobankale’de yer alan şapel içi gömülerinde gün yüzüne çıkartılmış olan röliker haçlar ve bunların Bizans dinî dünyasındaki yerini değerlendirmektir. Bu bağlamda antik yazarların enkolpionlar ile ilgili anlatıları temel alınarak eserlerin işlevleri üstünde durulmuş, Anadolu’nun farklı bölgelerindeki müzelerin envanterlerinde yer alan ve kazı çalışmalarıyla açığa çıkartılan benzer örnekler karşılaştırılarak tarihleme önerileri sunulmuştur.


Çobankale castle is 5 km from Altınova district of Yalova city. It is located in the Yalakdere Valley. Information about the historical process of the castle can be obtained from the narratives of the 1st Crusade. According to the narratives of Anna Komnena, the Seljuks re-conquered the castle, which was taken from the Turks by the Crusaders in 1096.

Castle was under the rule of the Eastern Romans in the 13th century. Ottoman raiders defeated the Eastern Roman soldiers in the castle and the Ottoman Empire came of age as a result of the Battle of Bapheus in the region. After the region was conquered, the castle was left to its fate.

Scientific studies have been carried out since 2017 in the castle, which has been dominated by different powers throughout the periods. The subject of this article is two reliquary crosses, which were unearthed during the excavations in the chapel in the castle. Çobankale reliquary crosses were found in the excavations carried out in the castle in 2020, in the rectangular planned and single-nave chapel located in the east of the castle, next to the east-west oriented tombs in the burial pit created by simply carving the bedrock.

Loan pile reliquaries were worn around the neck using a rope or chain. These reliquaries consisted of cross-shaped boxes that could be opened and closed. They were created by joining two hollow parts together with hinges at both the bottom and top. Among the most common depictions in the iconography of reliquary crosses, which are equipped with religious figures in low relief or engraving, are the figures of the Virgin or saint in proportion to the crucifixion of Jesus. It is seen that the cruciform relics are generally made of bronze, as well as finely worked gold and silver examples.

In this study, which aims to evaluate the reliquary crosses and their place in the Byzantine religious world, the functions of the artifacts are emphasized, based on the narratives of the ancient authors about the reliquary crosses and dating suggestions are presented by comparing similar examples in the inventories of museums in differentregions of Anatolia and unearthed by excavations.

In this context, it can be stated that reliquary crosses, which can be seen as a reflection of the self-concept in Byzantine culture, are versatile objects. Along with their primary role of providing protection from evils and evil spirits with the relics hidden within, they were sent as precious gifts; they became the mark of the word; they showed rank and strengthened interpersonal ties.

The relics in the form of a Latin cross with inventory number of “Çobankale 2020- M3” have survived to the present day with only one side preserved. The upper and horizontal cross arms of the reliquary, which is produced with the bronze casting technique, are approximately equal to each other, and the lower cross arm is longer. The arms of the cross expand slightly from the center outward. At both ends of the vertical arms there are looped hinge parts that connect the two cross pieces to each other with a pin.

When the Çobankale reliquary crosses, which is evaluated iconographically, it is seen that a saint figure with a halo is depicted in a proportional position in the center of the cross relic with inventory number M3 (1). In studies dealing with figures depicted in a similar way, it is seen that the depictions of these figures are mostly attributed to St. Georgios. The dress details of the figure, which is depicted with a dress that extends to her feet, her arms extended in a prayer position and her outwardly turned feet are depicted in a very stylized style.

In Çobankale M3 (2) inventory numbered reliquary crosses, there are four biblical writers in medallions in a low relief technique in the center, with a halo on the head and in the proportion position, and on the cross arms at the ends. The common beliefthat the person praying in the position of orans is Virgin Mary and has been supported by epigraphic data in the studies written to date. Likewise, this iconography, in which the Virgin Mary is often depicted in the orans position, is encountered not only on cross relics, but also on silver goblets, censers, ceremonial crosses, other encolpions, book covers, and relic boxes.

The draped dress of the Virgin Mary figure in the center, extending to her feet, is decorated with simple linear decorations with horizontal notches and dots in the scraping technique. The busts of four male figures in the medallions on the cross ends of the relic are depicted with long beards. Facial features and clothing details are highly stylized.

Considering the iconography, material and typological features of the Çobankale reliquary crosses, it is seen that a large number of similar ones have been found, almost as if they came from the same workshop, and are exhibited in museums today and are the subject of scientific studies.

Although there is no clear consensus on the production and origins of the reliquary crosses, iconographic evaluations reveal important data in terms of the evaluation of their chronology and typology. These reliquary crosses, which are generally thought to have been used extensively after the iconoclastic period, especially starting from the 11th century and 12-13th century. It can be stated that it has been used extensively for centuries.

In addition, in order to support the scientific studies carried out in the chapel, radiocarbon analyses of the bones belonging to the tombs and wooden pieces found in the chapel were carried out in 2022. According to the results of the analyses carried out, the wooden pieces date back to the 13th century and the bone samples taken from the graves are dated to the end of the 11th-12th century. In the light of radiometric data, it can be stated that the chapel was built in the 12th century and was used until the 13th century.

In this context, the Çobankale reliquary crosses are also iconographically dated to the 12th century, according to radiometric analyzes that allow both similar examples and the chapel to be dated.

In addition to the chronological evaluation, it is also important that the Çobankale reliquary crosses are grave finds. The fact that the reliquary crosses are found in tombs is due to the close bond of the owner of these objects, which are the symbols of personal piety, with his body. Moreover, considering the talismanic meanings of the cross relics, it is believed that they protect not only the living but also the dead.

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Sayın, E., & Seçkin, S. (2023). The Encolpion Reliquary Crosses from Çobankale. Art-Sanat, 0(20), 505-530.


Sayın E, Seçkin S. The Encolpion Reliquary Crosses from Çobankale. Art-Sanat. 2023;0(20):505-530.


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Sayın E, Seçkin S. The Encolpion Reliquary Crosses from Çobankale. Art-Sanat [Internet]. 3 Dec. 2023 [cited 3 Dec. 2023];0(20):505-530. Available from: doi: 10.26650/artsanat.2023.20.1278458


Sayın, Esra - Seçkin, Selçuk. The Encolpion Reliquary Crosses from Çobankale”. Art-Sanat 0/20 (Dec. 2023): 505-530.


Published Online01.08.2023


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