Глазирана паничка за керамопластична украса с монограм от Червен (опит за реконструкция и идентификация)

Glazed bowl insert for ceramoplastic decoration with monogram from Cherven (A reconstruction and identification attempt)

  • Georgi Sengalevich National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 2 Saborna Str., 1000 Sofia
Keywords: ceramoplastic decoration, sgraffito, monogram, Kallistos, Cherven


The present paper is dedicated to an unusual example of sgraffito ware bearing a monogram found  in the citadel of the medieval town Cherven during the excavations of Church No. 7 (fig. 2, 22). The bowl insert for ceramoplastic facade decoration whose tubular shaft was broken, is covered by white slip and green glaze that is partially missing (fig. 3). The fabric is characteristic for the ceramic assemblage of Cherven. The shape, the size, the technology, and the quality of the craftsmanship of the item also conform to those of other representative examples of the decorative ceramics found during the exploration of the town. However, only on this artefact there is an inscription – a cruciform monogram containing the letters А, Λ, Η, C, and Τ. In the Byzantine written tradition the monograms were usually used as abbreviation for the names or the titles of the elite. In this paper I propose a reconstruction of the name Kallistos: [К]АΛ(Λ)ΗСΤ[ΟС] (fig. 10, 12). Based on the palaeographic and orthographic analysis it is possible to conclude that the monogram is characteristic for the Late Byzantine epigraphy, but was created by local craftsmen. Having command and using the Greek language and literacy in the capital and in the large urban centers of the Second Bulgarian Empire is no surprise at all. Concerning the interpretation of the inscription, it is necessary to consider similar monograms belonging to high-ranking patrons in the socio-political life: tsars, despotes, high-ranking individuals in the military administration, high-born members, as well as high-ranking clergymen – patriarchs and metropolitan bishops, which are found on the exterior or in the interior of a number of Late Byzantine churches. For example, patriarch Niphon I of Constantinople (1310 – 1314) has his monograms placed at several spots on the exterior of the magnificent church of Agioi Apostoloi in Thessaloniki (fig. 17, 18). Extremely similar in appearance are the monograms of Alexios Apokaukos, carved on capitals from Silivri (fig. 19). Another interesting example is the Poganovo monastery, where Konstantin Dejanović (ca. 1378 – 1395), the despot of Velbuzhd, is immortalized together with his daughter Elena in the inscriptions on some stone discs (fig. 20). But Mystras is the center where the use of monograms becomes an obsession. It is hard to find there a church that was not “stamped” with the monograms of its founders (fig. 9, 13, 21). Based on the parallels of a wide range of monuments of the elite from the 14th to the 15th c., it can be assumed that the bowl with the engraved cruciform monogram with the name “Kallistos” from Cherven was most probably set in a ceramic band, framing one of the blind arches on the southern facade of the church along which the main street of Cherven passed. Around the mid-14th c. Kallistos I (1350 – 1353; 1354 – 1363), patriarch of Constantinople, stands out in the Orthodox world with his vigor and expansiveness. He intensifies the contacts with the Churches of Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia attempting to impose the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Kallistos also left numerous literary works translated into Medieval Bulgarian. In his works he repeatedly praised tsar Ivan Alexander (1331 – 1371) and demonstrated his close relations to the Hesychasts in Bulgaria – St. Theodosius of Tarnovo, who lived in the vicinity of Cherven, in the first place. It is not impossible that Church No. 7 posessed the respective patron’s marks exactly of Kallistos I. In this regard, the inscription can also be considered not only as a patron’s mark and as a dedication, but as a material expression of the political program, followed by the Ecumenical patriarch and his allies in Bulgaria.

How to Cite
Sengalevich, G. (2019). Глазирана паничка за керамопластична украса с монограм от Червен (опит за реконструкция и идентификация). Contributions to the Bulgarian Archeology / Приноси към българската археология, 9, 111-130. Retrieved from http://series.naim.bg/index.php/CBA/article/view/101