CHKHAIDZE V.N. New Findings of Crosses on the Territory of Historical Alania


Viktor N. Chkhaidze

Candidate of Sciences (History), Head of the Centre for Byzantine-Caucasian Studies,

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

Rozhdestvenka St, 12, 107031 Moscow, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. In the period from the 10th to the beginning of the 13th centuries on the territory of historical Alania (the east of Krasnodar Krai – the northern regions of Chechnya), the Christian church flourished. The material evidence of religious life in this territory is the data of staurography – namely, the finds of reliquary crosses, pectoral crosses, quadrifolia. The choice of the subject of personal piety was determined not only by the assortment of local craft workshops and the directions of trade relations, but also by the taste and capabilities of each person. Therefore, the study of this category of finds makes the historical and social portrait of the early Christians of the North Caucasus more prominent.

Methods. As a result of the baptism of the Alans in the 10th century and the establishment of the Alan Diocese with its center in Nizhny Arkhyz (914), crosses of Byzantine provincial and ancient Russian origin are becoming widespread on the territory of Alania. With the spread of Christianity, imitative and imitation types of crosses appear in the local Alan environment, the finds of which have not yet been found outside the Caucasus. To date, there are more than 120 crosses-encolpia, pectoral crosses and quadrifolia of the 12th – 13th centuries known on the territory of historical Alania. In this regard, the discovery of each new cross is of outstanding interest.

Analysis. Currently, to the body of crosses originating from the territory of Alania, we can add the finds of four more interesting specimens found in recent years in the eastern regions of Krasnodar Krai, the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic, the south of Stavropol Krai, and the north of the Chechen Republic. The first cross is the front leaf of the reliquary cross with the image of the Crucifixion, dates from the 11th – 12th centuries and belongs to the Byzantine crosses of the Balkan (?) origin. Such crosses are quite common, being one of the first in Old Rus, made by visiting craftsmen. The second cross – the reverse leaf of the reliquary cross with the image of the Virgin the Sign. Only two similar instances are known. These crosses were made by local (or visiting) craftsmen in Alania according to numerous Byzantine samples and date back to the 12th century. The third cross is one-sided, with the image of an unknown saint (St. Nicholas?). Crosses of a similar shape are known, but with the image of the Crucifixion. These crosses were made in the local, Alan environment and date back to the 12th – 13th centuries. The fourth cross is one-sided, silvered, with the image of the Crucifixion. As analogies, seven one-sided crosses identical in shape and composition from the territory of the Northern and Western Pre-Caucasus are given. In Alania, these crosses were in use from the middle or the second half of the 10th century to the turn of the 11th – 12th centuries. Different versions of the image of Christ are explained by the presence of several local workshops, as well as different craft and artistic traditions.

Results. The presented finds of crosses not only add to the evidence of the Christianization of Alania in the 11th – 12th centuries, but also provide valuable information about the nature of the local, imitative Byzantine originals of the production of objects of personal piety.

Key words: North Caucasus, Alania, Christianity, staurography, crosses, reliquary crosses.

Citation. Chkhaidze V.N. New Findings of Crosses on the Territory of Historical Alania. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2022, vol. 27, no. 6, pp. 276-283. (in Russian). DOI:

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New Findings of Crosses on the Territory of Historical Alania by Chkhaidze V.N. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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