Tom’s Grandmother’s Bread Seal

My home town friend Tom, whose name you’ll see often in these pages, is an amazing source of information. One day he emailed me these great photos of his grandmother’s bread seal, along with the text.

You might be able to make out “Pandilidou” written with pencil in Greek on the small side. My grandfather’s surname was Pandelis. Traditionally, a wife’s surname took the possessive form of her husband’s—in this case Pandelidou, “the wife of Pandelis.”

A Greek bread seal: first view A Greek bread seal: second view A Greek bread seal: third view

As part of every Greek Orthodox Sabbath service, the priest leading the devotion blesses and breaks a special sacramental bread that is impressed with a seal and distributes pieces to all attendees. The act takes place during the transubstantiation part of the Devine Liturgy service. The stamped center of the bread represents the Host (Christ, from the Latin hostia, “sacrificial victim”) and is mixed by the priest with wine for communion. Essentially, a simple leavened country or city bread of wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt it is generally shaped in a round loaf and represents the resurrected Christ (other Christians use unleavened bread or wafers). The name of the bread is prosforon (πρόσφορον) or “to give forth (a gift or offering).” It is also called antidoron (αντίδωρον), which means “in lieu of a gift.” As part of her dowry, every Greek Orthodox bride used to receive a seal to mark the prosforon. Today, bakeries in Greece make prosforon on Saturdays. The seal is cross-shaped and reads “IZ XZ NIKA,” the Greek monogram of Iesous Christos Nika—“Jesus Christ Wins.” The prosforon divides the bread into a cross shape and became the model for hot cross buns in the rest of Christian Europe.


For many Greek, Slavic, Russian, Jewish, and Egyptian recipes and bread baking tips, see: