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Reliquary of St Eustace
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From the ninth century, reliquaries (containers for religious relics) were often made in an idealized form of the relic itself. This 'head' was said to contain fragments of the skull of St Eustace. According to legend, Eustace was a general under the Roman emperor Trajan (reigned AD 98-117) who was converted to Christianity while hunting, after seeing a vision of a stag with a luminous crucifix between its antlers. Some time later, after victory in battle, he refused to join in thanksgiving to the Roman gods, and was burned to death with his wife and sons.

The reliquary, made in Europe in the early thirteenth century, has a sycamore wood core covered with silver plates. When the reliquary was conserved in 1955 a number of relics were found wrapped in textiles which were returned to the Catholic church in Basle.

Reliquary of St Eustace

Basle, Switzerland, c.
AD 1210 Ht 32 cm.

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