Book-Shaped Reliquary


Modeled after a treasure binding, this reliquary was commissioned by Duke Otto the Mild (1292–1344) as part of his magnificent memorial donation to the collegiate church (now cathedral) of St. Blaise in Brunswick. The engraved effigies of that church’s three patron saints on the reverse tie the object to the dynastic foundation. The front cover reuses much older objects, including an eleventh-century ivory of Christ’s miracle at the Wedding at Cana, as well as ancient cameos—small carved glass or gemstone plaques—interspersed with precious gems. The use of such spolia (spoils) forms part of a broader representational program that proclaimed the status and authority of the patron’s family while adding to the prestige of their local church. Among the relics within were pages from the four Gospels, lending the object a quasi-liturgical function.

Book-Shaped Reliquary
Germany, Lower Saxony, ca. 1340 (reliquary)
Belgium, Liège (?), late eleventh century (ivory)
Cleveland Museum of Art
Gift of the John Huntington Art and Polytechnic Trust, 1930.741