In a recent excavation of a medieval knight’s stronghold in Woźniki, Poland, archaeologists have unearthed a rare cross-shaped reliquary.
The site, first explored in the mid-19th century by the Archaeology Department of the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom, has undergone extensive agricultural activity, obliterating visible remains. However, a geophysical study by the University of Łódź revealed traces of the stronghold, leading to a comprehensive archaeological investigation.
The knight’s residence, dating from the 14th to 15th centuries, saw the uncovering of the lower floor’s remains and a furnace from the 13th or 14th century. Among the numerous artifacts discovered were clay vessels, door fittings, a padlock, a key, nails, hooks, and military items such as crossbow bolt heads and three iron stirrups.
Notably, the team unearthed a rare find—an enkolpion, a cross-shaped reliquary made of copper alloy. Due to its delicate state, the artifact was sent to Wrocław for conservation.
In a statement, the researchers described the enkolpion as a “rare find.” Enkolpions, historically worn by Christians on the chest, held relics or quotations from the Holy Scripture. This particular enkolpion adds a unique dimension to the discovery in Woźniki. The enkolpion, also known as a medallion with an icon in the center, is associated with Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic bishops.
These artifacts were considered symbols of the Christian faith, with various shapes such as oval, round, and four-cornered, often adorned with jewels. In antiquarian contexts, an “encolpion cross” refers to a pectoral cross linked to the Byzantine period.
The archaeological team, led by Dr. Piotr Strzyż from the University of Łódź, conducted the first fully systematic examination of the relic mound, revealing not only the knight’s residence but also the remains of a wooden church and a cemetery within a larger settlement. The stronghold’s origin dates back to the end of the 13th century, and it likely burned down in the first half of the 15th century.
The archaeological research in 2023 involved students from the University of Lodz, guided by professors from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Łódź, the Jan Długosz University in Częstochowa, and Wojciech Kawka from Bytom, showcasing an interdisciplinary approach.
Despite the historical significance confirmed by earlier research in 1957, the site suffered destruction due to agricultural activity, according to Science in Poland. The recent excavation highlights the importance of preserving such historical sites and the interdisciplinary efforts required for comprehensive archaeological studies.