July 20, 2021


On July 15, 2021, His Grace Bishop Joachim (Cotsonis) of Amissos, PhD, presented a lecture, virtually, on the iconography of Byzantine lead seals for the group of international graduate students enrolled in the 2021 Byzantine Coins and Seals Summer Program at Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, DC. His Grace, a graduate of Holy Cross, is Director of HCHC’s Archbishop Iakovos Library and Learning Resource Center and an internationally recognized authority on the iconography of lead seals, of which the Dumbarton Oaks 17,000-specimen collection is the largest and most comprehensive in the world. 

These seals offer great insight into all aspects of Byzantine studies, including art history. They offer a means of investigating the social and political use of religious images, in addition to their roles in personal piety and expressions of individual identity. Over the years, Bishop Joachim has published widely in academic journals on topics related to this material. In 2020, the prestigious publishing house Routledge published a two-volume set in its celebrated Variorum Collected Studies series of all his scholarly articles devoted to the study of the sacred imagery of Byzantine lead seals: The Religious Figural Imagery of Byzantine Lead Seals, I: Studies on the Image of Christ, the Virgin and Narrative Scenes; II: Studies on Images of the Saints and on Personal Piety and in the same year Dumbarton Oaks published His Grace’s volume, Catalogue of Byzantine Seals at Dumbarton Oaks and in the Fogg Museum of Art, Volume 7: Anonymous, with Bilateral Religious Imagery, presenting 572 anonymous lead seals bearing sacred images on both sides, representing the first attempt to analyze this type of seal chronologically and typologically. The extended introduction in this latter volume outlines the significance of such seals, establishing an accurate and consistent terminology, their relationship to other collections, the nature of their selectivity, their iconographic types and distribution, the pairings of sacred figures, the method for determining obverse and reverse, establishing dating criteria, and placing this type of seal within the historical, artistic, and religious trends of Byzantine culture.