Medieval gold pendant

A bigger picture

Christian reliquaries reveal the spread of Christianity and its changing theology. When Muslims conquered the Holy Land many of the earliest relics were taken for safety to Constantinople, capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire. From 1095 Crusaders returned to Western Europe with relics and reliquaries that they had bought or stolen. These, or relics of more recent European saints, might be treasured in churches or be divided amongst smaller reliquaries. From the 1500s some were taken by Catholic missionaries to the New World while, in northern Europe, many were destroyed during the Protestant Reformation although the reliquary that held them may have survived.

Reliquary cross


Made in Constantinople around AD 1000.

See more See more: http://www.learn.columbia.edu/treasuresofheaven/relics/Pendant-Reliquary-Cross-35.php

Portable altar


Made in Germany around AD 1200 that contained several relics. See also the two video links in For the classroom.

See more See more: http://www.learn.columbia.edu/treasuresofheaven/relics/Portable-Altar.php

Crystal rock phial


Made in the Middle East; AD 1000s – 1300s. It has an Arabic engraving claiming that it held a hair from the Virgin Mary.

See more See more: http://www.learn.columbia.edu/treasuresofheaven/relics/Fatimid-Flask-Reliquary.php



Made in France around AD 1210. Decorated with images of the English saint, Thomas Becket.

See more See more: http://www.learn.columbia.edu/treasuresofheaven/relics/Reliquary-Chasse-with-Scenes-of-the-Martyrdom-of-Thomas-Becket-99.php

A silver reliquary encasing fragments of human skull


Possibly from St. Eustace. Made in Switzerland around AD 1200.

See more See more: http://www.learn.columbia.edu/treasuresofheaven/relics/Reliquary-Head-of-St-Eustace.php

A lantern-shaped reliquary pendant


Very probably made in Mexico; AD 1500s 1600s.

See more See more: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=38908&partId=1&searchText=reliquary&images=true&from=ad&fromDate=1100&to=ad&toDate=1550&page=1
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Medieval gold pendant