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Reliquaries were pieces of jewellery popular throughout the medieval period which were often worn as the terminal on a rosary. The defining feature of these items is that they open or are a vessel of some kind and are designed to hold a relic which is believed to be holy. This could be a piece of bone from a saint, a piece of the true cross, a thorn from the crown of thorns or water or blood from a holy source.
With the interest in pilgrimages during this period in history, these items could be bought from sacred sources and stalls along the way. They may or may not have been actually what they were believed to be. Nevertheless, it was usual for an ornate receptacle to house this treasure to be required.
The Byzantine gold and enamel reliquary cross shown at right is dated from the 10th century. It has a hinge at the bottom which opens to reveal the reliquary inside which is believed to be a piece of the true cross and is 6cm high.
The gold and enamel reliquary pendant shown at the left is dated at the 13th century. It depicts a military saint with a sword and has a hinge which opens to hold a relic. This also contained a piece of the true cross and was at one time owned by St Kethevan, Queen of Georgia who died in 1624.
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