Arm Reliquary

Date: ca. 1230

Geography: Made in Meuse Valley, South Netherlands

Culture: South Netherlandish

Medium: Silver, gilded silver, niello, and gems; wood core

Dimensions: 25 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 4 in. (64.8 x 16.5 x 10.2 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1947

Accession Number: 47.101.33


Precious containers for relics—the bones of a holy person, or objects touched by that person—are among the most inventive and accomplished works of art in the Middle Ages. In this reliquary, a silver and gilded arm is bordered both by decorative filigree plaques set with gems and antique cameos, and figurative scenes crafted in niello on silver. These plaques include images of saints Peter and Paul, perhaps the patrons of the church from which this reliquary originally came. As a reliquary was thought to retain the power and holiness of the saintly person, clergy used arm reliquaries to bless people or heal the sick.