Paten Depicting the Communion of Paul and Peter, early 7th century
Silver repoussé in high relief
9 5/8 × 10 ¼ × ½ in. (24.4 × 26 × 1.3 cm)
Photo: Hickey-Robertson, Houston
This paten is a liturgical altar object of exceptional significance in terms of its artistic quality, its rarity, and its meaning. The sensibility of its Hellenistic style, the sculptural illusionistic faces, the youthful beardless Christ, and the loosely yet originally arranged draperies form a lingering echo of antiquity amid the emerging art of Christianity. Christ, with his right hand (fingers bent), touches the ear of Paul. This preeminence suggests the surroundings of Antioch, where he was considered cofounder of the Church with the other apostles. Paul, symbolizing the freedom of the spirit, holds a special place in the Orthodox Church.