This flabellum, or liturgical fan-created for the practical function of keeping flies away during the celebration of Mass-is a particularly fine example of its type. Originating during the Early Christian period, flabella were first constructed from parchment or feathers and were attached to long shafts so they could be held by the subdeacon behind the altar during the blessing of the bread and wine. Later, however, as their function became more purely ceremonial, more lavish materials were used in their construction. All that remains of this fan is its head, richly ornamented with concentric bands of silver gilt and jeweled and enameled friezes decorated with stylized acanthus-leaf scroll and palmette patterns. The hinged, central boss opens like a door to reveal a compartment that once held a relic.