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Goldsmith’s Art

The Hüglin monstrance from the treasury of Basle Munster

Key data

Basle, ca. 1505

Silver, cast, embossed, parcel gilt, with enamel

height 88.7 cm

Inv. 1882.79.


Stylistic comparison with another tower monstrance by the Basle goldsmith Simon Nachbur suggests that he also made this reliquary. An inscription on the base of the cylinder identifies it as the gift of Konrad Hüglin, master mason of Basle Munster. The support is less elaborate than that of the Munch monstrance and the surface decoration is limited to an engraved tracery pattern. The lozenges on the knop bear the letters MAHIRSAI, which can be read as an anagram of MARIA and IHS. The Late Gothic, three storeyed, spire-like structure where the relic is housed is impressive. It is peopled with cast figures gilded to make them stand out from the silver architectural forms of their setting. In the arcaded tabernacle on top of the ostensory is a Virgin and Child in a mandorla, and in the uppermost storey stands St Andrew. The figures of Sts John the Evangelist and John the Baptist in the flying buttresses to the sides of the principal level relate to the relic in the cylindrical glass, where two angels in a charming garden of paradise hold a bone from the finger of the Baptist as well as a scroll.

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