The Hidden Church
(Sakli Kilise)
The Centurion


The centurion wears a lamellar klibanion with armoured sleeves, but no armoured skirt (kremasmata). Under the armour he wears a tunic with a complex pattern of symbols similar to  fleurs de lys* in black and white, within a trellis of diagonal white lines. Unlike many figures in Byzantine religious art, he is not bareheaded, but is wearing what is probably a turban. He appears to be unarmed.

The klibanion is of "banded lamellar". The plates of each row appear to be in line with those of the adjacent rows, and there appear to be two laces per plate. The upper arms are protected by what seem to be leather strips, with the gap between these and the klibanion apparently unprotected, as the pattern of the tunic is continued in this region. It is difficult to make out the neck opening of the klibanion, as it is obscured by the cloak.
His legs are covered with what appear to be hose, with a pattern of repeating roundels similar to that on the tunic of the soldier with the sponge. On his calves are either kampotoubia or boots - the feet of the figure are not shown, so it is not possible to determine which - and there appear to be bindings wound round them to secure them in place.
*Contrary to popular belief, the fleur de lys is not a purely French symbol. Prior to its adoption as France's national symbol, it was used to represent the Virgin Mary. But it goes back even further than that. In the Encyclopaedia of Jewish History (I. Shamin & S. Shavit, Angus & Robertson, 1985) it appears on  a Judean coin from the 4th century B.C.E.




Referenced on p22 Byzantine Infantryman, Eastern Roman Empire c.900-1024 by Timothy Dawson
This centurion at the Crucifixion depicted in the 'Hidden Church' (Tokali Kiliesi) at Göreme wears a klivanion of lamellar with separate splinted sleeves. The patterning on his undergarment represents one of the more intricate quilting patterns, since brocade cloths in such diapered patterns were not yet being produced at this time. (Photograph courtesy of Steven Lowe)



Referenced in figure 225 in The military technology of classical Islam by D Nicolle
225. Fresco, Crucifixion, c. 1070 AD, Byzantine, in situ, Sakli Kilise, Chapel 2A, Göreme, Cappadocia (Cor).

Back to the Hidden Church (Sakli Kilise) Cappadocia, Turkey, showing Byzantine Costume & Soldiers