Silver censer from the first Cyprus treasure

Byzantine, AD 602-10
Found west of Kyrenia, Cyprus on the ancient site of Lambousa

A hexagonal hanging censer with portrait medallions

This censer, together with a bowl , a paten, and twenty-four spoons, formed part of a hoard of silver found at the end of the nineteenth century known as the first Cyprus treasure.

Each of the six sides bears a medallion formed by the branches of palm leaves which define the edges of the censer. Within each medallion is a nimbed bust. These represent Christ, flanked by the Apostles Peter and Paul and on the opposite side, the Virgin with John and James. Christ can be distinguished by his cruciform nimbus; Peter by his cross-staff. John, James and Paul all hold books, while the Virgin wears a veil and palla (shawl).

This small vessel, used for burning incense, would have been carried and swung by its three chains, now missing. Incense was introduced into the Christian liturgy after the reign of Constantine the Great, the emperor (306-337) who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Open censers like this represent an early form, known from depictions on Early Byzantine mosaics at S. Vitale in Ravenna. They were only rarely made in precious metal. This example can be dated by five control stamps on the bottom, one of which is of the emperor Phocas (602-10).

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Silver censer from the first Cyprus treasure

  • View of other side

    View of other side


More information


K. Weitzmann (ed.), Age of spirituality: Late Anti (New York, 1979)

J.P.C. Kent and K.S. Painter (eds.), Wealth of the Roman world, AD (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)


Diameter: 10.900 cm
Height: 6.700 cm
Weight: 8.250 oz

Museum number

M&ME 1899,4-25,3



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