Other Anthropomorphic Forms of Reliquaries

Reliquaries come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from the more common floral-like form to those which are more anthropomorphized in their designs. Regarding the latter, in the past we have featured here reliquaries that come in the form of busts and full figures -- forms which essentially combine the art of statuary with the function of the reliquary, depicting the saint whose relics are contained within. However, another form of this that is frequently found are reliquaries which depict the nature of the relic contained within them, for example, a figure of a leg or an arm for a corresponding relic of the same. 

The most common expression of this type of reliquary seems to be that of the arm but others exist as well and I thought I would share a few examples with our readers today.

Reliquary of S. Mamiliano, 1725

Reliquary of St. Lawrence, ca. 1600-1610

18th century. Saint not identified. 

Reliquary of St. James. Date unknown. 

Reliquaries of this sort also came in the form specifically of feet, as in the case of these two examples:

Relic of the foot of St. James the Greater, ca. 1250. 

Reliquary of the foot of St. Mary Magdalen, 1645

If you want to see how some of these function, the next reliquary is identified as originating from the second half of the 16th century containing the arm of St. Agatha. Here is the reliquary:

And opening the bottom, here is the relic itself:

Here too is the reliquary of the leg and foot of St. Agatha; the reliquary itself being dated to 1740-1760:

And here again, a view of the relic:

If you're interested in this subject, this short book by Bernard Berthod may be of interest to our French-speaking readers:

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