Reliquary Box from the Saint-Arnoul Abbey

  • Reliquary Box from the Saint-Arnoul Abbey
Reliquary box, 11th and 19th centuries, bone of cetacean and ivory, inv. 000.1.1 
This box is part of a tradition of worship of the remains of holy bodies that goes back to the early Christian era; The relics here are said to have been two fragments of the Cross of Christ. The object is the result of a reworking which allowed the collectors of the nineteenth century to put a lid, using to do so, a long and original side, now absent. The long side was replaced by a fake one.                                                                                                                

The three original sides have a border with a pattern of acanthus leaves. The long side presents an apostolic scene: there are nine bare feet apostles, dressed in togas and two characters wearing slippers and the dalmatic, that is to say the habit of the deacons, assigned by the apostles to distribute the alms and thus to relieve them in their role of proselytes. 

The scene depicts the enthronement of a deacon who can be identified with St Clement, in the hypothesis of a creation or order of the object in relation to Metz: St Clement is enthroned by the first apostle, placing his hand on him while another one is showing him the book of scriptures; Behind him, Saint Stephen, the first of the deacons - and patron of the cathedral of Metz is standing. But according to the medieval tradition of representing a succession of actions in the same scene, the two images of deacons could also correspond to the same Saint Stephen, represented during and after his enthronement. 
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