St. Marina, known as St. Margaret in the West, was martyred at the age of 15 in Antioch of Pisidia, and buried there. In the 8th century, Roman Empress Maria, wife of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian, had her relics transferred to Constantinople. The reliquary pictured held a portion of the hand of St. Marina, and was probably made in 12th-13th century Constantinople. By 1213, Marina’s relics rested in a monastery outside of Constantinople and a man named Joannes de Borea received permission to take her hand in its reliquary to Venice. The reliquary remained in Venice in the Church of San Liberale, also called Santa Marina, until its dissolution in 1810. The current location of this reliquary is in Venice, at the Museo Correr.
This small, oddly-shaped silver-gilt reliquary features a repoussé bust portrait of the Saint within a roundel in its interior. Marina wears a draped maphorion mantle and holds a cross in one hand while gesturing with the other, all typical elements of representations of female saints in Byzantium. The inscription to either side of Marina identifies her by name. The scalloped edge of the reliquary indicates that the container once had a glass or rock crystal cover. Just how the portrait would have been seen inside the reliquary and beneath a cover remains unknown. A loop at the top of the reliquary suggests the possibility that it may have been worn or suspended as a votive. Cynthia Hahn, however, has recently suggested that the reliquary’s strange shape may correspond to the practice of venerating it, rather than the shape of the relic itself. The reliquary’s shape is well-suited to clasping between two hands in prayer. A long dedicatory inscription in Greek covers the sides and back of the reliquary and tells of the power of the saint. The anonymous donor used a feminine participle in the Greek inscription, suggesting the possibility that the donor was a woman. She sought out Marina’s hand for help in overcoming “evil spirits of the mind” (noeton pneumaton could also be translated as "noetic spirits," or "invisible spirits"), and prays to her for this deliverance. This request recalls the story of Marina’s triumph over the devil, in the form of a dragon. In Latin versions Satan took the form of a dragon and swallowed Marina, but the cross she bore forced the dragon to heave her back up. In Greek versions a demon attempted to torture Marina in light of her human tormenters’ failure to harm her, but she managed to find a hammer and beat the demon. Marina’s aggressive displays of victory over evil may have made her particularly attractive for a suffering devotee.
The inscription on the sides reads:
ZHTEICΘE AYTA TINOC H XEIP TYNXANEI/ MAPTYPOC HΔE MAPINHC THC AΓIAC/ HC TO KPATOC EΘΛACE ΔPAKONTO KAPAC/ AYTHN ME ΠPOC ZHTHCIN ωTPYNE CXICIC/ ZHTOYCA TOYN ETYXON AYTHC EK ΠOΘOY/ ΠPOC KOCMI OYN ECΠENCA TON THC KOCMIAC
Do you inquire about these things, [asking] to whom the hand belongs? This is [the hand] of the holy martyr Marina, whose power crushed the head of the dragon. Its having been cut off stirred me to seek it, and seeking it I found it, in accordance with my desire, and I made an offering for the seemly adornment of the honored one.
The inscription on the back reads:
MIKPOC MEN OYTOC TH MEΓAΛH TYNXANEI/ OMωC Δ AΠEIPOC CYN ΠPOCAIPECEI ΠOΘOC/ TOINYN AMAPANTINON ANΘOC MAPTYPωN/ ZAΛHC ΠYON ME TωN NOHTωN ΠNEYMATωN/ NIKHN KAT AYTωN TO KPATOC TE ΠAPEXOIC ANAΛOΓON NEMOYCA TH CXECEI ΔOCIN
While this [reliquary] is a small thing in comparison with the great [martyr], nevertheless there is unbounded devotion with my gift. Now, imperishable flower of the martyrs, save me from the storm of the evil spirits of my mind and give me victory over them, and power, dispensing a gift comparable to your nature.