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.
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