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Pair of epimanikia

  • Place of origin:

    Constantinople (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1704 (dated)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered on satin in silver-gilt and silver threads, with silks, river pearls and glass, embroidered in laid and couched silver-gilt wire, and padded

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Epimanikia are cuffs worn as part of a priest’s vestments in the Greek Orthodox Church. This pair shows the Annunciation, with the Angel and the Virgin Mary. Their inscriptions refer to the Monastery at Kosinitsa, in eastern Macedonia.

Physical description

Pair of epimanikia, liturgical cuffs of the Greek Orthodox Church, embroidered on red satin in silver-gilt and silver threads. With some coloured silks and river pearls. Illustrated with the Annunciation. The angel is on the left-hand cuff and the Virgin is on the right. The figures are embroidered in laid and couched silver-gilt wire with pattern couching for the haloes and the angel's wings. The gilt thread is laid in alternate rows with red, green or blue silk thread, and couched with a silk thread of the same colour. The metal thread is laid in different directions to catch the light at different angles. The drawing of the garments is indicated in split stitch in dark brown silk. The faces, hands and hair are worked in silk in split stitch. The haloes are outlined in large pearls and decorated with a red glass jewel.

The floral patterns are worked in silver-gilt and silver thread laid over padding, and decorated with pearls and occasional couching stitches in red and green silk. The border pattern is enclosed in a narrow framework of couched metal threads, and there is a partly detached needle-made edging of metal threads at the top of each cuff.

Place of Origin

Constantinople (probably, made)


1704 (dated)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered on satin in silver-gilt and silver threads, with silks, river pearls and glass, embroidered in laid and couched silver-gilt wire, and padded

Marks and inscriptions

'Th[ou] to doron kai ktima Averkious Hieromonachou te kai Protosygge'
The gift of God and the property of Averkios priest/monk as well as Protosyngelos
Virgin left

'lou [unread] ek tis megistis monis tis [K]osyni[tsis] 1704'
from the great monastery of Kosynitsa 1704
Virgin right

'Mnisthiti K[yri]e tin doulin sou Chrysanthis'
Remember Lord thy servant Chrysanthi
Angel right.
See Historical Context note by Professor D.M. Nicol.


Length: 20.5 cm each cuff, Width: 30 cm maximum, top of each cuff

Object history note

Purchased. Registered File number 1985/1988.
Cuffs (epimanikia) were originally worn by bishops of the Greek orthodox Church as part of their liturgical vesture, but from the late middle ages they have been worn by all priests. The drawings of the angel and the Virgin are after Byzantine models of the 14th century and 15th century. The subject was a popular one for liturgical cuffs throughout the 15th century to 18th century.

The decorative patterns of the field and borders are typical of Greek Orthodox embroidery of the period, and are rather more formal than the increasingly westernised decoration of the later 18th century.

This is very high quality embroidery which is typical of its period in style and technique. It seems likely that the cuffs were made in a secular workroom, probably in Constantinople (Istanbul). Embroideries of this period were often signed by the worker, but the name Chrysanthi is not so far known, and the usual form of such a signature was 'dia cheiros ...' (by the hand of ...), or included the words 'kopos' (trouble) or 'ponos' (pain). In this case therefore it does not follow that Chrysanthi was the embroideress.

Historical context note

Note by Professor D.M. Nicol, Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, King's College London, along with a reference bibliography of sources in Greek:
The megiste mone is that of the Theotokos called Eikosiphoinissa on Mount Panagaion, near Drama, in eastern Macedonia. It was also known as Kosinitsa (or Kosphoinissa or Kosnitza). The missing letters together with those that are legible would have made up the word [K]OSYNI[TSES]. This identification seems to be confirmed by two facts: The monastery of Kosinitsa was specially privileged by the Patriarch Maximos III (1476-1482) who, in July 1477, granted its abbot and his successors the right to call themselves archimandrite and protosynkellos. This was a privilege conferred upon abbots of particularly favoured or 'patriarchal' monasteries in Byzantine times and later. Secondly, the appellation of the monastery as megiste mone is attested by a document of the Patriarch Jeremias I (1522-1545), referring to the monastery of the Theotokos called 'Kossinissa' as the patriarchike magiste mone. The earliest reference to the monastery seems to be in a document in Chilandari on Mount Athos, dated 1320. It was the burial place of Maria (Mara) Brankovic, daughter of George Brankovic, Despot of Serbia, who was the wife of the Sultan Murad II and the stepmother of Mehmed II the Conqueror. She died at Jezevo on 14 September 1487. It may be that her influence with the Turks helped the monastery to survive and to be specially privileged. It was looted and destroyed by the Bulgarians in 1916 and its many manuscripts and treasures were dispersed or lost. A list of some of them, though not the textiles and embroideries, was produced in 1913.

Descriptive line

Pair of embroidered epimanikia, liturgical cuffs of the Greek Orthodox Church, dated 1704

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Nicol, D.M. The Byzantine Family of Kantakouzenos (Cantacuzenus) ca. 1100-1460. A genealogical and prosopographical study. Dumbarton Oaks Studies XI. Washington D.C., 1968. No. 92, pp. 210-213.


Silk (textile); Silver-gilt thread; Silver thread; Pearl; Silvergilt wire; Glass


Embroidered; Padded; Couched; Laid; Satin weave

Subjects depicted

Floral patterns; Angel


Religion; Men's clothes; Embroidery; Ecclesiastical textiles


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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