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The Fieschi Morgan Staurotheke

early 9th century
Made in Constantinople (?)
Cloisonné enamel, silver, silver-gilt, gold, niello
Overall (with lid): 1 1/16 x 4 1/16 x 2 13/16 in. (2.7 x 10.3 x 7.1 cm) lid only: 2 13/16 x 3 7/8 x 1/8 in. (7.1 x 9.8 x 0.3 cm) vessel only: 7/8 x 2 15/16 x 4 in. (2.2 x 7.5 x 10.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.715a, b
  • Description

    Relics of the True Cross on which Christ was crucified were quickly and widely distributed after its legendary discovery in the fourth century by Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor. Throughout the medieval period, such relics were housed in precious containers where they could be venerated by the faithful. This finely made small box decorated with cloisonné enamel and niello is one of the earliest examples of such a reliquary. The sliding lid, decorated with a Crucifixion scene and busts of saints, has four episodes from the life of Christ on its underside—the Annunciation, Nativity, Crucifixion, and Anastasis (or Descent into Limbo). The lid slides back to reveal five interior relic compartments arranged in the shape of a cross. On the lid, Christ, flanked by the mourning figures of the Virgin and Saint John, is shown alive on the cross, wearing a long tunic popular in Eastern depictions of this scene. Pope Innocent IV (r. 1243–54) is said to have owned this reliquary.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in Greek: [On lid] Here is your son...Here is your Mother (on either side of Christ's head); Jesus; Mother of God; John; [on lid moving clockwise from upper left] Saint Demetrios; Saint Eustathios; Saint Lawrence; Luke; Mark; Thomas; James; Saint Damianos; Saint Kosmas; Saint Gregory the Miracle-Worker; Bartholomew; Matthew; Jude; Simon; [on side moving clockwise from upper left] Saint Anastasios; Saint Nicholas; Saint Platon; Saint Theodore; Saint Prokopios; Saint George; Saint Merkourios; Saint Eustrastios; Saint Panteleimon; Saint Andrew; Saint John; Saint Paul; Saint Peter; [inside lid] Hail, full of grace!; The Nativity; Here is your son...Here is your mother.

  • Provenance

    Pope Innocent IV (Sinibaldo Fieschi)(r. 1243-54) and descendants; Baron Albert Oppenheim, Cologne(until 1904); [ Jacques Seligmann, Paris and New York (sold 1906)]; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (1906-13); Estate of J. Pierpont Morgan(1913-17)

  • See also