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Michael I Keroularios, patriarch of Constantinople (1043–54)

Accession number BZS.1947.2.1 (formerly DO 47.2.1)
Diameter 42 mm
Condition Scrapes on obverse.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 117.1; Laurent, Corpus 5.1: no. 15. Cf. Galavaris, “Thokos,” no. 19 (p. 174).


The Mother of God standing, holding Christ on her left arm. At left and right, sigla ...-ΘV: [Μή(τη)ρ] Θ(εο)ῦ. Traces of a circular inscription at right. Border of dots.

. . . ΤΩΣΩΔΟ . . .

[Θ(εοτό)κε βοήθει] τῷ σῷ δο[ύλῳ]


Inscription of six lines. Indeterminate border.


Μιχαὴλ ἀρχιεπι[σ]κ(όπῳ) Κω[ν]στα[ντ]ινουπόλ(εως) Νέας Ῥώ[μ(ης)].


Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ σῷ δούλῳ Μιχαὴλ ἀρχιεπισκόπῳ Κωνσταντινουπόλεως Νέας Ῥώμης.

Mother of God, help your servant Michael, archbishop [patriarch] of Constantinople, the New Rome.


Following the death of Patriarch Alexios Stoudites, Emperor Constantine IX (1042–55) selected as his successor Michael Keroularios, who reigned from 25 March 1043 to 2 November 1058. At the time of his appointment he was a monk, a profession that he elected in the wake of his complicity in a conspiracy against Emperor Michael IV (1034–41). His reign is memorable for strife with the papacy and the events of 16 July 1054, when Michael and the papal legate Humbert hurled excommunications at each other. After this event Michael added to his title the phrase οἰκουμενικὸς πατριάρχης. Keroularios was effectively in charge of the administration during the short reign of Michael VI (1056–57). Following Emperor Michael’s abdication on 30 August 1057, Michael crowned his successor, Isaakios I Komnenos, on 1 September 1057. According to the Continuation of the Chronicle of John Skylitzes, Isaakios “revered him,” and out of respect for Michael granted prominent positions to his nephews (Skylitzes Cont., 103). After an initial period of mutual goodwill, the patriarch, according to the Continuator, became arrogant toward the emperor and “went as far as to wear sandals dyed purple” (Skylitzes Cont., 105; English translation: Dagron, Emperor, 237). Isaakios, who had the support of the army, eventually acted against him. When Keroularios left the city to celebrate the Feast of the Archangels, Isaakios ordered the Varangian guard to arrest him along with his nephew and confine them on the island of Prokonnesos. Keroularios resisted forced deposition, but he soon died and was replaced by the proedros and protovestiarios Constantine Leichoudes (Skylitzes Cont., 105; ODB 2:1361). The Keroularios family enjoyed imperial favor long after Michael’s demise. We note that a Constantine Keroularios was protoproedros and droungarios of the Watch in 1074 (Kühn, Armee, 111; by this date Constantine was a civil official: see Laurent, Corpus 2: no. 891). At some point in the period 1050–70 a nephew of Michael Keroularios, by name Nikephoros, held the titles of proedros and general logothete. See now Seibt–Wassiliou, Bleisiegel 2: no. 54.

The reconstruction of the reverse, as well as the reading of the last line, depends on the inscriptions found on three similar seals published in Zacos, Seals 2: no. 15a–c (Type A).

Spink I, no. 17 (= Zacos, Seals 2: no. 15c) erroneously refers to the present example, from the Shaw Collection, as being from the Fogg Collection. The author, J.-C. Cheynet, notes the existence of a similar specimen in the Museum of Yalvaç (Pisidia), which is now published in Cheynet, “La Pisidie,” p. 454 and pl. 2.

After 1054, there appears a second type of seal. St. Michael is depicted on the obverse standing and holding a labarum in his right hand and a globus cruciger in his left. On the reverse is an inscription of six lines reading Μιχαὴλ ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Κωνσταντινουπόλεως Νέας Ῥώμης καὶ οἰκουμενικὸς πατριάρχης (Seyrig, no. 225; Zacos, Seals 2: no. 15d; Laurent, Corpus 5.1: no. 16; and Likhachev, Molivdovuly, LXV.13). Zacos illustrates the example from the Seyrig Collection, while Laurent chose a specimen from the collection of the American Numismatic Society (Newell, no. 19).