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Goldsmith’s Art

Reliquary in the shape of a house from the treasury of Basle Munster

Key data

Basle, end 14th century

Silver, sheet and cast, parcel gilt, on a wooden core

height 35 cm, width 39 cm, depth 31 cm

Inv. 1882.85.


Reliquaries in shapes inspired by architecture were numerous in the Middle Ages and were produced in a great variety of types. This shrine in the shape of a house is characteristic in having the surfaces of walls and roofs decorated with many small silver plates stamped in the manner of bracteate coins. They are stamped with five motifs repeated in an irregular sequence over the grid like pattern: the head of the Man of Sorrows, the head of the Virgin Mary, the Lamb of God, sprays of leaves and of lilies. The other structural elements are modelled on Gothic architectural forms: corner tabernacles with saints and crowning angels, and cornices and crockets along the ridges of the roof that define the edges of the shrine. One of the long sides is marked as the main facade by the lockable double door, and by the blue enamelled medallion with the Virgin and Child set into the surface of the roof above it. Four struck round medallions are applied to the doors: they represent the Crucifixion and Sts Catherine, John the Baptist and James.

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Basel Historical Museum
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