About this artwork
This lamp was meant to be suspended from polykandela, or chandeliers, which hung from the ceiling. The early Byzantines, like the Romans before them, typically burned olive oil for light. Lamps made from glass such as this were more expensive than the numerous surviving terracotta examples, and they were likely used to light the most important part of a church, such as, the altar or the nave. Keeping the lamps lit was costly, and generous donors gave endowments to churches to literally keep the lights on. Emperor Constantine, for example, donated the revenue from seven large estates specifically for the maintenance of 174 lamps, polykandela, and candlesticks in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome.
Small lamps like this example held oil and a string wick that was pulled through a floating piece of wood or cork. Lamps were suspended, individually or in groups, in elaborate metal chandeliers.
- Currently Off View
- Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium
- Eastern Mediterranean Region
- 501 CE–600 CE
- Glass, blown and tooled technique
- 12.3 × 8.9 × 8.9 cm (4 7/8 × 3 1/2 × 3 1/2 in.)
- Gift of Theodore W. and Frances S. Robinson