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A bishop's pectoral in silver with enamel, made by Grigorii Pankrat'ev, 1874–1896

The pectoral ( plural pectorals or pectorales ; from Latin pectoralis , "relating to the chest, belonging to the chest") designates the pectoral cross of religious dignitaries, formerly also a simple protection for the upper body. Today the term is used almost exclusively in a religious and archaeological context.

Pectorals as insignia

In Christianity, a pectoral cross is an insignia for bishops (therefore also for the pope ), abbots and abbesses and cathedral provosts . The pectoral is worn on a cord ( pectoral cord ) - which can have different colors depending on the rank - or a chain.

In the Orthodox churches of Slavic characteristics the pectoral cross is carried by every priest , in the Orthodox churches of Greek characteristics as an award (stavrophoric cross bearer).

In Protestant churches, the regional bishops , the bishops of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) and provosts of Lutheran churches as well as clerical senior church councils / consistorial councilors wear a pectoral cross as a sign of their office. It is passed on to the subsequent holder of the office when the office is handed over. Occasionally Lutheran pastors in the SELK also wear smaller and less elaborately crafted pectoral crosses.

Pectorals in antiquity

Pectoral Ramses' II , exhibited at the Louvre in Paris (size: 13.5 cm × 15.7 cm)

Pectorals were already worn in the Neolithic ( Báculos , slate plate idols ), in ancient Egypt and by the Iberians ( Dama de Elche , Dama de Baza, etc.). They originally served primarily magical, that is, apotropaic purposes by being worn as a special form of amulet . In this context, they have also established themselves as jewels for kings , higher priests and other members of the wealthier classes.

They also symbolized divine protection or royal rule for both the living and the deceased wearing them by decorating sarcophagi with pectorals. In the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun , various pectorals were found both on the mummy and in boxes. Often the motif of a shaking falcon with outspread wings was used.

The size varied from the width of a hand to the entire chest area. The motifs were mostly of a religious nature, e.g. B. Scarabs , the Udjat (Horus eye); In the royal area the usual (canonical) motifs can be found: the trampling of the enemy by the king in the form of one or two sphinxes , the sky and crown goddess Nechbet, depicted in the form of a vulture, as a symbol for Upper Egypt and the snake goddess Wadjet as a symbol for Lower Egypt.

A metal plate that was worn as simple armor protection in front of the chest during combat was also referred to as a pectoral. In the early days of the Roman Empire , the pectoral was the usual body armor for the lower census classes .


Many dignitaries in the Mesoamerican cultures ( Olmec , Maya , Aztec ) are particularly emphasized by their elaborately designed breast ornaments. One example of this are the “twins” from El Azuzul .

Pacific Rim

Rei-Miro is awooden pectoral knownonly in the culture of Easter Island , mainlycarvedfrom Toromiro wood. It has a crescent moon shape, which can also beinterpretedas a Polynesian canoe . The two ends are often designed as human or animal heads with fine facial features. There are holes for a lanyard on the upper ends. Some pectorals are provided with Rongorongo characters . Their meaning (cult object, jewelry or badge of rank) is unknown.

See also


  • Otto Nussbaum : The pectoral cross of the bishop. On the history of its creation and design , Matthias Grünewald Verlag, Mainz 1964.
  • Erika Feucht: Pectorals of non-royal persons (= Egyptological treatises. Vol. 22). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1971, ISBN 3-447-01319-2 .
  • Henrieta Todorova, Ivan Vajsov: The copper age jewelry of Bulgaria (= prehistoric bronze finds. Dept. 20, 6). Steiner, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-515-07616-6 , p. 69.
  • Evgenij V. Černenko: The protective weapons of the Scythians (= prehistoric bronze finds. Dept. 3, 2). Steiner, Stuttgart 2006. ISBN 3-515-08659-5 .

Web links

Commons : Pectorals  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Pectorals  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Gold pectoral of a hovering falcon ( Memento of February 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), S. Quirke and AJ Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)