Treasures of Heavensaints, relics and devotion
in medieval Europe

23 June – 9 October 2011

Members free 
Open late Fridays

Sponsored by John Studzinski

In association with
William and Judith Bollinger, Singapore
Betsy and Jack Ryan
Howard and Roberta Ahmanson
The Hintze Family
Charitable Foundation

Organised with
The Cleveland Museum of Art
The Walters Art Museum

Objects: St Baudime reliquary

According to legend St Baudime was a missionary sent from Rome by St Peter to bring Christianity to Gaul (modern-day France) during the early 3rd century AD. He travelled with St Auditeur and St Nectaire and settled in the Auvergne region of France where this reliquary is still held today.

Treasures St Baudime installation

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This reliquary was made between 1146 and 1178 and may once have held a relic
of St Baudime’s blood. The relic would have been held in a cavity at the back of the reliquary but it is no longer contained inside. There is no record of relics being contained inside the reliquary beyond 1871.

St Baudime’s reliquary has a turbulent history – the gemstones which were once studded all over his vestments were likely removed during the French Revolution in the 1790s. The reliquary was also stolen at the beginning of the 20th century by a notorious art thief. It was found soon after by police, apparently languishing in a wine cellar.

We might normally expect this type of reliquary (known as a ‘speaking reliquary’) to contain a skull – as the form of the reliquary would literally speak its contents. However, there is no record of this container ever having held a skull relic, which further adds to the object’s mystery.

This rare survival has never before left France and is one of the exhibition’s most astounding objects.

Slideshow of the installation

St Baudime reliquary
  • 1

    The striking figure of St Baudime, resplendent in gilt-bronze, has arrived at the British Museum to go on display.

  • 1

    1. The crate containing the bust is carefully wheeled into the exhibition space where it will be unpacked.

  • 2

    2. The sides of the crate are removed...

  • 3

    3. ...and the head of the bust is revealed.

  • 4

    4. The team decide how to safely remove the bust from the crate.

  • 5

    5. A conservator carefully removes the foam to reveal the entire bust.

  • 6

    6. The reliquary is ready to be removed from the crate.

  • 7

    7. The object is moved to a table for conservation work.

  • 8

    8. The team carefully supports the bust when moving it.

  • 9

    9. The team carefully supports the bust when moving it.

  • 10

    10. The reliquary is put on a trolley to transport it.

  • 11

    11. The conservators get to work.

  • 12

    12. Conservator Maickel examines the bust..

  • 13

    13. The reliquary may once have contained a vial of St Baudime's blood.

  • 14

    14. Originally the reliquary was covered with precious and semi-precious gems which were removed during the French Revolution. This makes the reliquary a rare survivor from revolutionary times.

  • 15

    15. The reliquary may once have contained a vial of St Baudime's blood.

  • 16

    16. Conservators Alex and Maickel put the finishing touches on the reliquary..

  • 17

    17. The bust is now ready to be moved into its display case. Maickel, Sam and James dilligently lift him.

  • 18

    18. The reliquary is placed inside the case.

  • 19

    19. The reliquary is placed inside the case.

  • 20

    20. The reliquary bust of St Baudime is in its place and ready for the public to see it when the exhibition opens 23 June.