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
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.