Reliquary Busts

Gilded wood or silver papier mache
17th-18th centuries


The Museum has many reliquaries of different materials and shapes. The most common are the wooden box type with various decorations. Others are in metal in different architectural styles or similar to a monstrance. Others are similar to body parts from which the relic came, known as reliquary busts.

The bust shows the saint connected to the relic which was placed in the base then sealed with sealing wax to guarantee its authenticity. The relic has a thin layer of linen or other material with the saint’s name around it and often a description.

Besides reliquaries of gilded wood for martyrs and saints there are others in silver paper pulp of bishops and popes topped by their characteristic head coverings.

The reliquary busts were used to decorate church altars and have been in the Museum collection since 2000.

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