Today’s Friday Photo depicts a spectacular piece of liturgical silver from the Late Antique/Early Mediaeval period (6th-8th century) in the Near East. The piece is housed in the Dumbarton Oaks collection of Byzantine art, alongside other liturgical items. These items were arranged around the altars of churches, and were employed by priests as they celebrated the Eucharist. Often donated by wealthy or aristocratic patrons, they displayed the devotion (and prosperity) of the community. Their use as status objects became particularly important as the Byzantine elites stopped endowing civic buildings–a common activity in Roman times. Chalices, screens, and decorated crosses were often donated, although I believe this object is the lid of a ciborium, a container used to hold Communion bread. (Anyone with more information, please let me know!) Its size (over 1 foot in diameter), and its fine workmanship attests to the commitment of the Christian communities of the Near East throughout a period of great change–both political and religious–surrounding the rise of Islam.