The latest in JVP’s long-running Orthodox Shrines series of medieval religious art coins has been announced and it’s a fine reproduction of a 11th/12th century reliquary pendant, likely made in Thessaloniki, Macedonia. Reliquary pendants are designed to hold relics of a holy figure, perhaps small parts of the body, clothing or something else associated with the figure in question. The piece that inspired this coin was acquired by the British Museum in 1926 and is described by this venerable institution as “Reliquary pendant; gold; circular, with enamelled half-figure of St George on a white ground, and outer inscription on blue; front with gold, hinged half cover with inscription and circular opening in which is set a hinged enamel panel (St Demetrius in the tomb) a covering in gold relief of recumbent figures, and surrounded by four compartments containing relics; Greek”.

The inscription in Greek around the rim translates to “[The wearer], annointed with your blood and myrrh, prays to have you as his ardent protector in battle”. Saint Demetrius is the patron saint of Thessaloniki going back to the time when this city was the second largest in the Byzantine Empire. As a military saint, he is often paired with Saint George. With a diameter of 37mm, it’s only slightly larger than the coin which, despite coming in at 50g, is smaller than usual because of its thickness. As you can see from the two images below, the coin on the left is a superb reproduction of the original (right), giving a fine look at this 900 year old treasure from the Middle Byzantine period, which lasted from the end of iconoclasm in AD 843 until the tragic sack of Constantinople in the fourth crusade in 1204, ironically by the Crusaders themselves.

As we’ve stated before, whether this subject matter is of interest or not, there’s no denying the quality of the finished article. JVP have Swiss mint, PAMP undertake much of their work, a very capable outfit. Packaging is, as usual, beautifully executed and includes a detailed Certificate of Authenticity. Available to order, it should be shipping any time now.

MINTS DESCRIPTION

Only a handful of the personal reliquaries of St. Demetrios have survived, each incorporating small interior, shuttered compartments for relics and depictions of the saint. The relics of Demetrios were not his bones, but oil or myron collected from his tomb, and blood-soaked earth taken from the site of his martyrdom.

The owners of the reliquaries would have had to move through several layers, opening the lid of the reliquary first and then the shutters covering the interior compartments, before finally seeing the relics and the innermost depiction of the saint.

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SPECIFICATION

DENOMINATION COMPOSITION WEIGHT DIMENSIONS FINISH MINTAGE BOX / COA
$5 NEW ZEALAND 0.999 SILVER 50.0 g 32.6 mm B/UNC 999 YES / YES
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