Healing neck collar.
Early 19th century.
Partly gilt silver healing neck collar. The chain features a plaque with representation of Saint Demetrios. Physically or mentally ill people came to the church, wore collars around their neck and spent the night having tied themselves up with their chains to a specific part of the church’s interior, receiving the priest’s blessing, hoping for a cure. According to the Christian faith, mental illnesses derived from evil spirits; therefore, stay-hospitalization in churches and holy places was anticipated, aiming at the patient’s healing —a practice that perpetuated the ancient process of enkoimesis that took place in the sanctuaries of Asclepius.
Several churches had a special chamber for the healing of the mentally ill, as in the church of Panagia Kolykaraia (church of the Nativity) in Adrianople, and the Monastery of Saint George Koudounas on Prinkipos Island, protector of people suffering from mental disorders, where such collars were preserved in the past.
Five (5) more neck collars are kept at the BCM, documented in the inventories as “collars for the lunatics”, whereas similar objects are preserved at the Benaki Museum and among the heirlooms of the church of Saint Gregory the Theologian in Nea Karvali.
The object comes from Asia Minor, yet its exact origin has not been confirmed.
Multipage typed proof of receipt of Asia Minor heirlooms, including the healing collar listed as number 23, as well as five other similar collars. They were all described as “collars for the lunatics”, a characterization implying prejudice towards their use and the social reality associated with their emergence.(pdf / 8,4 MB)