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Reliquary of the Holy Cross


Reliquary of the Holy Cross

Author: Unknown

Date: 16th – 17th century

Material: Gilt silver and glass

Dimensions (cm): H 45 x W 20,8 x D 13,3

Provenance: Guimarães, Colegiada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira

Inventory No.: MAS O 25

This reliquary has an oval base of two tiers, the first one decorated with cherubs and the second with acanthus leaves. The baluster-shaped stem has a knop decorated with acanthus leaves. The cross, which keeps a little piece of wood of the cross Christ was crucified on, is inserted in an oval frame surrounded by a halo of straight and wavy rays.

This relic of the Holy Cross was offered to the Collegiate Church of Guimarães by the archbishop of Braga, Friar Agostinho de Castro, who had brought it from Bohemia. This relic had been given to the archbishop by the Spanish ambassador, Dom João de Borja, brother of Saint Francisco de Borja, who, in turn, had received it from the hands of the Empress Dona Maria.

This relic came inside a small gilt silver cross, which was, later, placed inside this reliquary-monstrance, ordered to be made by prior Dom João Lobo de Faro (1642 – 1655).

This new typology of reliquaries, which distance themselves from the medieval models of the closed caskets, began to appear in Portugal in the 16th century following the rules that emerged from the Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) concerning liturgical plate: that of keeping and displaying the relics, which originated this type of reliquaries.