In memoriam: Elisabeth Piltz (1938-2018)

Elisabeth Piltz died on January 23, 2018, in Uppsala. She was born on March 7, 1938, in Ödeborg, municipality of Färgelanda, Dalsland, where she will be buried on February 23.

Elisabeth Piltz studied art history and languages at the universities of Uppsala and Stockholm, and Byzantine studies in Paris (with André Grabar) and München (with Hans-Georg Beck). As an historian of Byzantine art, her first interest was Byzantine ceremonial clothing and insignia, both secular and ecclesiastical, a field to which she would make her greatest contribution. In 1976 she defended her thesis on Trois sakkoi byzantins. Analyse iconographique, followed up by Kamelaukion et mitra. Insignes byzantins impériaux et ecclésiastiques (1977). In 1994 she returned to the subject with Le costume officiel des dignitaires byzantins à l’époque Paléologue. Recently she revised a long essay, written already in 1970 (but never printed), and published it with the title Loros and sakkos. Studies in Byzantine imperial garment and ecclesiastical vestment (2013). She contributed to the article on “Insignien” in the Reallexikon zur byzantinischen Kunst, vol. 3 (1978). Articles in the field also include “Middle Byzantine court costume” in the Dumbarton Oaks publication on Byzantine court culture from 829 to 1204 (1996), “Costume comme communication théologique” and “Liturgische Gewänder im byzantinischen Ritus“, the latter two in Byzantinoslavica (2003 and 2009).

Elisabeth Piltz also explored other research areas. One such area was Nordic-Byzantine/Muslim relations and its impact on Nordic material culture. For the byzantinizing church paintings in Gotland and Södermanland, she participated in the international project Corpus de la peinture monumentale byzantine (two instalments, 1989 and 2008). Moreover, she organized an international conference in Uppsala in 1979, published as Les pays du Nord et Byzance (ed. by R. Zeitler, 1981). In 1986 she lead a course on the same subject, which also resulted in a publication (partly in Swedish): Bysans och Norden (ed. by E. Piltz, 1989). Yet another conference took place in 1996 in Uppsala on her initiative, and the papers were published in Byzantium and Islam in Scandinavia (ed. by E. Piltz, 1998). When Elisabeth Piltz began working on this subject in the seventies it was a largely neglected area in West-European scholarship. Today the field is more firmly established with large-scale projects such as e.g. “Dirhams for slaves” (

Her research into the Scylitzes Matritensis was presented in Byzantium in the mirror: the message of Skylitzes Matritensis and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (2005). A selection of her minor works were collected in From Constantine the Great to Kandinsky. Studies in Byzantine and post-Byzantine art and architecture (2007). In Det levande Bysans (1996) she gathered shorter essays in Swedish for a broader audience.

Elisabeth Piltz was one of the founders of the Swedish committee for  Byzantine studies as part of the Association internationale des études byzantines (AIEB).

Johan Heldt

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