Zsuzanna Gulácsi, The Prophet’s Seal: A Contextualized Look at the Crystal Sealstone of Mani (216–276 C.E.) in the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Analysis of inscription as seen on flat side of crystal. After Gulácsi 2013: pl. XX.
Analysis of inscription as seen on flat side of crystal. After Gulácsi 2013: pl. XX.



The only Manichaean work of art known today from late ancient Mesopotamia, where Mani’s religion originated, is a double-sided rock crystal seal (INT. 1384 BIS) in the collection of the Département des monnaies, médailles et antiques of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. This crystal is a one-of-a-kind object with an extraordinary significance—it was made to be used by Mani (216–276 C.E.), the founder of Manichaean religion that existed in phases from the Mediterranean region to southern China between the mid 3rd and early 17th centuries. This paper explores the variety of functions this object fulfilled. (1) Its inscription identified Mani. (2) Its image showed Mani amidst the community of his elects. (3) Its convex surface with the engraved negative intaglio was used as a seal. (4) Its pendant mount that was needed for sealing and safekeeping. (5) Its crystal material possibly symbolized valued properties of Mani’s teachings. In addition, circumstantial evidence supports the claim that (6) it this pendant seal may have signaled the transmission of authority at Mani’s death and subsequently became a relic.