Exhibitions/ Art Object

Reliquary of Saint Oswald

Date:
ca. 1185–89/partly restored 1779
Culture:
German (Hildesheim) or possibly British
Medium:
Gold, silver, gilded silver, niello, cloisonné enamel (a few replaced), gems, pearls, and antique cameos and intaglios; wood core
Dimensions:
H.: 17 in. (43.2 cm); Diameter base: 10 5/8 in. (27 cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line:
Dom-Museum HIldesheim (DS 23)
Not on view
This magnificent reliquary was made to house, and still contains, the skull of Saint Oswald, a seventh-century king of Northumbria. It is distinguished by accomplished work in niello (a black alloy of sulfur and metal that is fused by heat to engraved metal surfaces), with sure draftsmanship in the drapery, hair, and backgrounds. Beneath the portraits of eight monarchs, including Oswald, an inscription refers to God’s crowning of kings. The ill-fitting diadem is a later addition.
Cathedral Treasury, Hildesheim (ca. 1185–89); Dom-Museum Hildesheim Documentation: Victor Heinrich Elbern, Der Hildesheimer Domschatz (Hildesheim: Lax, 1969), no. 23; Kirchenkunst des Mittelalters: Erhalten und erforschen. Katalog zur Austellung des Diözesan-Museums Hildesheim (Hildesheim: Bernward Verlag, 1991), pp. 135-160.