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Between Power and Demise: Reliquary of Barbara Frankopan Branković

Branislav Cvetković, Regional Museum of Jagodina, Balkan Studies Institute, Summer Fellow 2015–2016

During my fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, I continued my research on the reliquary of the Despotissa Barbara Frankopan Branković, now kept in the Franciscan monastery at Tersatto, Croatia. The complex structure and chronology of its parts required research in several areas, and I have now resolved with certainty questions of the technical and stylistic diversity of what were originally more than forty relic frames, now joined in one whole. Comparable material in scattered museum and monastery collections shows that the present content of the object represents a much later combination of smaller and older reliquaries and other items. Paleographic and metalwork evidence indicates that several relic frames were produced in the court workshop of the earlier generations of the Branković dynasty. Analysis of the formal features of the well-preserved frames provides fresh data on issues of relic display, especially in comparison with the reliquary of Saint Marina in the Museo Correr in Venice. I have found new information about the provenance and dissemination of the inscription (a prayer to the Holy Trinity) on the rim of the panagiarion. The most important part of my research was related to establishing the identity of relics belonging to the neomartyrs. My research provides a context for part of the reliquary against the political and religious background of the Balkans in the later Middle Ages.