Head-shaped reliquary of Pope Alexander I

Head-shaped reliquary of Pope Alexander I
Abbey of Stavelot, Liège, Belgium
1145
Wood, silver, enamel, brass, rock crystal, semiprecious stones
44,5 x 28,5 x 23,5 cm
Inv. 1031

This head-shaped reliquary was dedicated by Wilbald, abbot of Stavelot, on 13 April 1145. On the front of the enamel case, the martyrs saints Alexander, Theodolus and Eventius symbolize the ecclesiastical hierarchy. They are defined by their attributes: the bifid mitre, pallium and crozier for the Pope; crozier and pallium for the bishop; and Gospel book for the deacon. Their relics were contained in a case, whose shape recalls a portable altar or a tomb. Busts of the Virtues on the sides symbolize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the constant diligent practice of which gives the faithful hope of achieving divine wisdom, personified in the center of the rear face. These Virtues crush sin, embodied in the dragon-shaped feet, and lead to holiness, represented by the silver head of the Pope Saint Alexander. This vertical symbolic progression from Evil toward Good reasserts the doctrine conveyed by the enamel decoration on the sides of the case.

 

Discover this masterpiece on the online museum catalogue, in the book Masterpieces and in the section Romanesque and Mosan Art.