Book-Shaped Reliquary

Book-Shaped Reliquary

c. 1000

Ivory, silver: gilded, pearls, rubies, emeralds, crystals, onyx, cornelian, oak

Overall: 31.6 x 24.4 x 7.5 cm (12 7/16 x 9 5/8 x 2 15/16 in.); Part 1: 17.8 x 14 cm (7 x 5 1/2 in.)

Gift of the John Huntington Art and Polytechnic Trust 1930.741

Description

This sumptuous object closely resembles a deluxe medieval book cover in both form and decoration. It was likely commissioned by Otto the Mild, Duke of Saxony (reigned 1318–48) around 1340. It was made to contain a leaf from each gospel and relics of the 11,000 virgins and 4 other saints. These relics were originally kept in a cavity behind the delicately carved ivory plaque depicting scenes from the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1–11). The story of Christ's first miracle is presented in three scenes. In the upper left, the Virgin informs Christ and his apostles of the lack of wine at the wedding banquet. On the right, the groom, his bride, and their guests sit behind a table, two servants offering them goblets. In the lower register, two attendants pour water into the first of six storage vessels while Christ addresses his mother and the bride. The back of the reliquary shows the engraved figures of the main patron saints of Brunswick Cathedral: placed within a delicate Gothic architectural frame, Saint John the Baptist is flanked by Saints Blaise and Thomas Becket.

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