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
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.
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.
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
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.
© Rosalie Gilbert
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