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Medieval Reliquaries

Personal reliquaries were pieces of jewellery popular throughout the medieval period which were often worn as the terminal on a rosary or carried on the person.

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.

Lamb of God Reliquary case
Shown at top right is a Reliquary Case with Lamb of God motif from The Gilbert Collection. It comes from 15th century Britain. It is made of pewter and measures height 26mm, width 15mm.and weighs a total 3.98 grams.

When new it would have had glass at the front face so that the holy object placed inside could be seen.

The frame and the lamb are seperate, intact and in complete condition. Petwer is complete and intact although the glass is absent. Front frame has singular raised border and row if raised dots. The Lamb looks backwards towards the angled cross.

Gold Cross Reliquary case
The Byzantine gold and enamel reliquary cross shown at left 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.

Circular Enamel Reliquary case
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.

Although it is a small case, it is beautifully decorated and this also contained a piece of the true cross. At one time, it was owned by St Kethevan, Queen of Georgia who died in 1624.


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