Feb 20, 2005

Head Reliquary of Saint Paul

Head Reliquary of Saint Paul

1050–75 and 1225–50

Oak wood core; gold, silver, glided, chased; copper, inlaid with filigree, stones, pearls

Overall: 22.5 x 12.2 x 10 cm (8 7/8 x 4 13/16 x 3 15/16 in.)


Did you know?

The names of individual makers of reliquaries rarely survive; therefore, we rely on what we know about workshop practices and learn from the surviving objects.


One of the oldest surviving objects from the treasury is a hollow golden bust. Enclosed within are several skull fragments and possibly a tooth belonging to the Apostle Paul, patron saint of Münster Cathedral. The reliquary was displayed on the main altar and carried in a procession at Easter. This container is an example of a “speaking” or “body-part” reliquary, the shapes of which are purported to visually mirror the sacred contents within. It was common practice to update venerated reliquaries with additional decoration, as is the case with gilt-silver filigree and gems from the 1200s adorning this bust.

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