Pyx thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 83, The Whiteley Galleries

Pyx

13th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This pyx was designed to hold communion wafers consecrated during the mass. Early pyxes are often smal box-shaped objects with tightly fitting lids to avoid any accident to the communion wafers. This pyx is decorated with the letters IHS, the first letters of 'Jesus' in Greek. Known as the 'Sacred Monogram', it has been used as a symbol for Christ since the 6th century.
Enamelling was used in the medieval period to embellish the most revered objects such as those used by royalty or by the church.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Champlevé enamel on copper
Brief Description
Limoges enamel, 13th century, French.
Physical Description
Circular container with cone shaped cover surmounted by a cross. Enamelled with roundels containing the letters IHS.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 6.70cm
  • Height: 11cm
Gallery Label
Pyx A pyx (from the Greek for 'box') was used in Roman Catholic worship to contain the Sacred Host, the consecrated bread or wafer used in the Mass. Early pyxes are often small box-shaped objects with tightly fitting lids to avoid any accident to the contents. This pyx is decorated with the letters 'IHS', which represent a contraction of the name Jesus Christ in Greek. Known as the 'Sacred Monogram', they has been used as a symbol for Christ since the 6th century. Enamelling was used in the medieval period to embellish the most revered objects such as those used by royalty or by the church. Limoges, France; probably 1200-1300 Copper and enamel Museum no. 559-1853(22/11/2005)
Object history
Previously in Bandinel Collection
Historical context
Saints and Symbols

Like most religions, Christianity has a rich language of images and symbols. This iconography would have been clearly understood in the past but it may be less familiar to modern eyes.



Though often decorative, the symbols used on religious metalwork also refer to the function and significance of the objects. The contemplation of religious motifs can draw believers into a deeper understanding of their faith. Complex theological themes can be represented in a visual form. A chalice, for example, might be adorned with the tools used in the Crucifixion (the ‘Instruments of the Passion’) to direct the viewer’s mind towards Christ’s sacrifice and his death on the cross.



The use of images has caused controversy throughout Christian history. While supporters held that imagery glorified God and helped believers understand their faith better, critics attacked its use as superstition and idolatry.





Saints

Christians venerate saints as men and women who, through the holiness of their lives, became especially close to God. The saints include martyrs who suffered and died for their faith as well as great teachers and preachers. Their lives provide an example and inspiration for the faithful. Roman Catholics also believe that saints can intercede on their behalf with God. In Christian iconography, saints are usually depicted with a distinctive object or ‘attribute’ associated with their martyrdom or works. For example, St Bartholomew, who was skinned alive, holds a flaying knife, and St George is shown with a dragon.
Summary
This pyx was designed to hold communion wafers consecrated during the mass. Early pyxes are often smal box-shaped objects with tightly fitting lids to avoid any accident to the communion wafers. This pyx is decorated with the letters IHS, the first letters of 'Jesus' in Greek. Known as the 'Sacred Monogram', it has been used as a symbol for Christ since the 6th century.

Enamelling was used in the medieval period to embellish the most revered objects such as those used by royalty or by the church.
Collection
Accession Number
559-1853

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record createdAugust 31, 2004
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