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Zavis’ Cross stamp from Czech Republic

Zavis’ Cross stamp from Czech Republic
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Ceska posta issued a stamp illustrating Zavis' Cross. Zavis' Cross, a two-barred golden cross, has been used as a reliquary since the Early Middle Ages. It was likely created between 1220 and 1230 AD. It is 70 cm high and 28 cm wide. The original height was 44.5 cm but a base made of silver gilded with gold was added to the cross in mid-19th century. The figure of Christ was also added later. Each side of both beams ends with a typical French three-leaf lily (fleur-de-lis). The entire cross is studded with 44 precious stones and 174 pearls; the goldsmiths conceived the elaborate setting to achieve symmetry in size, shape and colours. The added base is garnished with 39 precious stones and 31 pearls from the local Vltava river. Zavis' Cross is made of silver and covered with Arabian gold leaves. The surface is decorated with filigree, i.e. a jewelry making technique using an extra thin precious metal wire. The technique was known as early as 2000 BC. The original wooden core of the cross was replaced with a silver plate dated 1775.

The front and rear sides of the cross are different. The rear side is decorated with enameled medallions with portraits of saints and their names in Ancient Greek, i.e. Georgius, Georgcos, Paulus, Thomas, Theologus, Petrus, Ionnes, Demetrius and Athanasius. These medallions cover the relics. The Rozmberk Chronicle describes one of the relics as a piece of Christ's cross used to crucify Christ. The same chronicle also mentions that shortly before his death, Zavis of Falkenstejn bequeathed this reliquary to the monks in the Cistercian monastery in Vyssi Brod.

For fear of its being seized by the Nazi Germany, the cross was moved before the 1939 annexation of the Sudetenland from the monastery in Vyssi Brod to Prague and deposited in the treasury of St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. At the end of the war, the Nazis spirited the cross to the Salzburg salt mines in Austria and hid it among other artifacts from the whole Europe. It was found there by U.S. troops who returned it back to Czechoslovakia. In 2010, the cross was placed on the list of national cultural heritage.

Together with the crown jewels and St. Maurus reliquary, it belongs to the most precious gold artifacts in the Czech Republic. It is also one of the top 10 most precious church historical items in the world.

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