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shrine / reliquary / relic

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Gable-end of a shrine depicting in recess the figure of St Oda between the figures of Religion and Charity within an architectural niche decorated with copper plaques and crystals; the outer frame decorated with enamelled plaques and with crystals; the inner frame with copper plaques alternating with eight horn-covered compartments containing relics.

    Stratford 1993
    Five-sided, with a gabled top. Perhaps originally with a metal cresting around the sides and top, but there is no physical evidence of its removal. The core is of a single oak plank roughly planed. Front: A narrow border (27-9 mm wide), chamfered inwards for 30 mm to a small 900 step, surrounds a sunk central area in the form of a deep niche beneath a trefoil-headed arch. Back: The oak core is planed to approximately the reverse image of the front; there is a narrow border, except at the bottom, chamfered upwards to a raised, approximately flat central area which corresponds to the niche on the front; at the bottom the chamfer is broader and there is no border. Irregularly spaced oak pins are trimmed off flat with the side and top borders and two groups of ancient iron nails are driven into the bottom chamfer near the lower corners. On the left edge only, two slots for wooden pins have been cut into the border and the chamfer. In approximately the centre, a small five-sided area has been left raised slightly above the surrounding planed surfaces; it has a trimmed-off wooden pin in it, and beneath this pin are three short parallel incised slots. A circular hole (11 mm in diameter) is bored through the core in the lower quarter of the plank near the central axis. At the top there is a metal suspension ring and base-plate, which is earlier than a second suspension ring recently added by the Museum. Front: The central field: The three female figures identified by repoussé inscriptions worked into the background are SCA ODA between, to her right RE/LIGIO, to her left ELEMOS/INA (Charity, that is alms-giving), the latter two inscriptions lettered vertically. The background inscriptions and the three figures are hammered in repoussé from a single sheet of silver, pinned to the core with silver nails. The lower edge of the silver sheet, much damaged, breaks forward well beyond the enclosing border. It has not been possible to verify whether the repoussé figures are backed with any filling, such as wax. St Oda stands frontally, holding a closed book in her left hand, the fingers of her right hand cupped to form a hollow slot, which must formerly have held an attribute, perhaps a long cross or an abbess's walking-stick. She is standing on a projecting ledge decorated with a pattern of roundels. Her draperies have sequences of small repoussé roundels, beading and studs which decorate the drapery borders, a brooch on her breast, the top of her head-mantle and her shoes. Gilding picks out discrete areas of the draperies. Four separate gilt-copper plaques decorated with vernis brun designs (discs, stars and foliate crosses gilded against the darkened copper) are fixed by silver wire hooks on to the repoussé of the draperies, to decorate the two sleeves and form a belt and lower hem. The saint's nimbus is also a separate copper-gilt vernis brun plaque, decorated with foliage stems; it is cut out to fit around the head and then pinned. The two flanking Virtues are youthful and hold blank scrolls. They are shown in three-quarters profile and lower relief, looking inwards towards St Oda. They stand barefoot on a rocky ground which is decorated with areas of hatching to simulate grass. Their draperies are similar to those of St Oda, with repoussé decoration of the hems and necklines, including patterns of discs filled with studs, and a big roundel of discs on Religion's right leg. Again there are discrete areas of gilding which include the hair of the two Virtues, and again the haloes are separate vernis brun roundels cut to fit behind the heads, the pattern here being combinations of stars and discs. Above the trefoil-headed arch which encloses the three figures a single gilt-copper plaque is pinned: it is beaded on its lower edge; four areas of vernis brun with designs of foliage stems alternate with three areas of stippled gilt-copper. The latter are embellished with concave roundels sunk into the stippled surfaces; each has a design of four silver balls, held in position symmetrically around a central crystal by holes cut through the copper. The three crystals are set in scalloped mounts, the big central crystal oval (38 mm in length), the two smaller flanking crystals round; two are hog-backed, one (on the left) is cut to a point and probably post-medieval; traces of discoloured foil are visible beneath the two original crystals. The inner edge of the trefoil arch is faced with undecorated strips of gilt-copper, as is the inner edge of the central niche. The small step which runs around the whole of the central niche is also faced with gilt-copper strips, decorated with a row of repoussé studs and pinned with modern copper nails. The outer border: This is faced with nine rectangular gilt-copper plaques with beaded borders: on each of these the stippled design with sunk concave roundels, silver balls and crystals (here without scalloped mounts) alternates with rectangular champlevé/ cloisonné enamelled foliage designs framed by beading. The enamels look like separate plaques, whereas in fact they are integral with the other motifs of the border. In the stippled areas the crystals are not mounted but held by oval or round cavities. All the crystals appear to be original, mostly hog-backed and again with a discoloured metal foil on their undersides, probably silver. Two of the stippled areas have been replaced at a later date by crude imitation brass plaques (at the apex of the gable and on the right upper corner). The thirteen enamelled rectangles are arranged in pairs symmetrically, so that identical patterns (or patterns so similar as to make their differences insignificant) correspond across the gable-end, from one side to the other and across the top; the two outer designs of the lower border also correspond, so that only the central enamel of this lower border is a singleton. Minor colour variations do however occur between each pair. All the foliage designs have an enamelled frame of pale-blue or turquoise within white and are either of scroll-work, trellis patterns or symmetrical arrangements of leaves; all are cut in champlevé but there are also a few rare insertions of cloisonné strip for minor elements, such as small quatrefoils and cinquefoils. The colours are juxtaposed to create bright effects: white/ deep blue, green/ yellow, and there are also three-colour fields: deep blue/pale blue/ white; deep green/pale green/ yellow. Opaque red is used freely for single petals, as well as for the central element of mixed fields: white/red, white/pale blue/red. The firing of the glasses resulted in several inaccurate colour transitions, and some of the champlevé cutting is also rough. The inner border: The inner chamfered border is faced with gilt strips of copper, stamped in a matrix with a repeating design of palmettes with symmetrically arranged leaves with frilly lobes and 'pine cones'. This plant frieze has been cut into at a later date, when eight cavities, each of a different size and shape, were formed to house relics. The cavities are covered with horn mounts, which allow the relics to be seen; these mounts are held in position by crudely pinned rectangular frames of undecorated brass, formerly gilded. The relics beneath the horn mounts are identified on vellum by tituli written in red ink by a single hand of the thirteenth century. The tituli read: (clockwise, from bottom left) (1)-(2)-(3). ‘de capite/xi:m:vgi': (of the skull of one of the eleven thousand Virgins [of Köln] ); (4) ‘de capite/xi: miliu(m)/virginu(m)' (as (1)-(3)); (5) ‘de xi/m vgi' (of one of the eleven thousand Virgins); (6) ‘de capite/scte eliza/sabz vidue' (of saint Elizabeth widow, that is St Elizabeth of Thuringia); (7) ‘de lacte bte marie vgis' (of the milk of the Blessed Virgin Mary); (8) ‘agnes/virgo' (St Agnes, virgin).


  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1170
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 583 millimetres
    • Width: 380 millimetres
    • Depth: 65 millimetres (approx.)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Translation

        St Oda
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Translation

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Translation

  • Curator's comments

    Schubert 1964, p129, fig.150, pl47
    Phillipe George, Jalons pour l'histoire d'un culte: saint Mengold de Huy, Annales du Cercle Hutois des Sciences et Beaux-Arts, 1980, vol. XXXIV, p184.
    Catalogue Visé et Saint Hadelin 1988, pp98 (figs4-5), 153 (fig93), 154 (fig95), 157-8, 160 (fig.103).
    Oman, A Mosan Reliquary at Luton Hoo, Burlington Magazine, vol XCIV, 1952, pp.264-7.
    Forgeur, L'ancienne châsse de sainte Ode d'Amay. Sa place dans l'art rhéno-mosan, Bulletin de la Société royale Le Vieux-Liège, 1977, vol. IX, no197-8(tix), pp163-75.Stratford 1993
    The palette of the enamels is: off-white, pale blue (5PB 4/4-5/4 or 5PB 5/2), deep blue (7.5PB 2/6), turquoise (2.5B 3/4-4/4), pale green (7.5GY 5/6), deep green (5G 3/2-3/4 and 7.5G 3/2-3/4), yellow (5Y-7.5Y-10Y 5/4-6/4), opaque red (2.5YR 3/4-4/4 and 10R 3/4-3/6).

    Composition of the alloys (owing to the impossibility of positioning the various components of the gable for accurate quantitative analysis by XRF, only qualitative results could be obtained by the British Museum Research Laboratory):

    Silver of main panel: 96-98% Ag, 1-3% Cu, 0.1-1% Pb. Mercury gilding.
    Vernis brun: copper. Mercury gilding.
    Stippled areas (outer border): copper. Mercury gilding. Silver balls.
    Stippled plaque at apex of gable (outer border): brass (i.e. a copper-zinc alloy) with a small component of lead.
    Frame of relic compartment (inner border): brass, with a small component of lead.
    Inner border: 97-98% Cu, 1-2% Pb, traces of tin, antimony, iron and silver. Mercury gilding.

    Description of the companion gable-end (Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, Inv. 57.519):
    The dimensions and layout are closely similar to those of this object, as is the planing of the oak core. Back: At the apex, a copper-gilt plate is crimped over from the front, a later addition. Four peg-holes symmetrically pierced in the sides of the gable. Modem wood patch at lower left to hold together a split. Two big holes pierced irregularly in the central area.
    Front: The central field: Christ with long cross and book stands on the necks of the two beasts of Psalm XC, 13, all worked in repoussé in a single sheet of silver with areas of gilding: ‘Super aspidem et basiliscum ambulabis, et conculcabis leonem et draconem’. The silver repoussé plaque is cut down; Christ's nimbus and cross are abbreviated, and the edges of the cut-down relief at two different angles are visible within the trefoil frame, the resulting lacuna being patched with additional silver sheet. Until a restoration in 1958, the entire edge of the central scene was masked by strips of gilt-copper engraved with simple patterns of crosses and stars; the lower strip was removed in 1958, as was a plain metal border masking the junction between the inner border and the central niche. Also in the 1958 restoration, the head of Christ and Christ's body were hammered out from behind, thus seriously modifying their original appearance. The single plaque which surmounts the trefoil arch is different from the corresponding plaque of this object: here four champlevé-cloisonné enamelled foliage designs, a trellis motif and a simple scalloped design which correspond across the arch as pairs, replace the vernis brun; the same stippled areas set with a crystal and silver balls alternate with the enamels as before they did with the vernis brun, but here the central crystal is round, the two flanking crystals oval. The enamel palette is exactly as on this object.
    The outer border: This is faced with lengths of gilt copper-alloy sheet, cut down on their inner edge and engraved with inhabited foliage scrollwork. Thin strips of the same engraved scrollwork, presumably the lengths trimmed from the outer border's inner edge, are also used to face the inner edge of the inner border. All these engraved plaques are reused. On the outer border, they are pierced with holes at regular intervals to allow the setting of rock crystals in scalloped mounts, surrounded by a pattern of four silver balls, thus echoing the arrangement of the stippled areas of the outer border of this object. In the centre of the bottom border, a semicircular champlevé enamel plaque is pinned over the copper scrollwork. The plaque appears to have been made for this position and its technique and style prove that it is contemporary with the other enamels of the two gables: it is the correct height for the border; its semicircular edge is beaded, its bottom edge plain to conform to the lower edge of the border; two enamelled foliage designs frame a beaded oval cavity which acted as a setting for a crystal, now lost. The outer border seems to have been repaired at two different periods: (1) the apex was patched with a plain gilt-brass plaque which is screwed on from back to front and set with a round crystal, and which appears to be contemporary with the gilt-brass relic frames of the inner border; (2) a rectangle set with a central crystal and silver balls on the left side, and the two lower angle plaques are replacements, engraved and punched with designs of inhabited scrollwork to supply lost sections of the original copper plaques.
    The inner border: Closely comparable with the inner border of this object, decorated with the same stamped gilt-copper foliage sheet (one area at bottom right renewed), and with the same arrangement of eight relic windows cut into the copper, with the same thirteenth-century vellum tituli written in red behind horn mounts, held in place by plain gilt-brass frames. The tituli read: (clockwise, from bottom left) (1) ‘de pallio scti/ berardi (of the winding-sheet of St Bernard of Clairvaux); (2) ‘os scti/ benedicti (a bone of St Benedict); (3) ‘de scto ag/ ustino’ (of St Augustine); (4) ‘de catedra/ gregorii’ (of the throne of St Gregory); (5) ‘de capite sci/ silvestri’ (of the head of St Silvester); (6) ‘de scto/ megoldo’ (of St Mengold of Huy) ; (7) ‘de innocentibus’ (of the Holy Innocents); (8) ‘de baculo/ Dionysii’ (of the staff of St Denis).

    Dimensions: H. (overall) 585 mm; W. (overall) 379 mm; (outer border) 30 mm ; (inner border) 30 mm; Semicircular enamel of bottom border : W. 61 mm.

    The two gable-ends were both in the Colworth collection in 1862 (an early photograph of them exists in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Guard Books, photo 2218). They were separated only in 1900 by Seligman. Robinson's claim in 1862 that they came from a 'Châsse, . . . said to be still preserved in its mutilated state in one of the churches of Cologne' has been generally dismissed (a letter of Marvin Ross in the archives of the Walters Art Gallery, written in 1952, states that Robinson's claim was denied in 1925 by the director of the Köln Museums, Otto von Falke). If however the provenance of the gables from Amay is correct, then it should be remembered that when the Amay Chapter was suppressed in 1797, the treasury was expatriated to Paderborn (Forgeur, 1977); thus, two items from the Amay treasury could well have been in Köln in the nineteenth century.
    The archaeology, iconography and style of the gables suggests the following historical sequence:
    (1) The central Christ relief and the engraved plaques of the outer border of the Baltimore gable are cut down and certainly reused. Verdier 1981 dated the Christ to the eleventh century, Lemeunier 1989 to the beginning of the twelfth century. The style of the Christ relief is now difficult to judge, because of the 1958 restoration undertaken by Joseph Ternbach of New York. In the pre-1958 photograph, the treatment of Christ's head seems close to that of St Oda's head and the decorative repertoire of the repoussé ornaments on the draperies is also similar; whilst the Baltimore Christ is in lower relief, there seems no powerful reason to date it much earlier than the London gable. Nevertheless it was clearly made for some other destination. Its reuse was probably contemporary with the creation of the two gables (not later, as Lemeunier has suggested). For a view of the Baltimore gable with the silver relief removed and for a discussion of the iconography of the Christ of Psalm XC, 13, see Verdier 1981. In the case of the cut-down engraved plaques of the Baltimore border, their luxuriant inhabited foliage scroll with blossoms and vigorously drawn animals fits with difficulty into any twelfth-century Mosan tradition. The engraved scrolls of the Solières cross in Liège and of the cresting of the St Domitian shrine of shortly before 1172 at Huy are certainly related, but they are tidier, without the rich exuberance of Baltimore, which seems rather to compare with eleventh-century German and Mosan examples (the inhabited scrolls of the Ludwig MS leaf, the Essen sword, the Basel gold altar antependium and the ivory portable altar from St-Aubin at Namur, ills. Swarzenski 1954, figs 98-100; von Euw and Plotzek, 1979, pp. 15-18 (Folia 1); Leonhard Küppers, Paul Mikat, Der Essener Münsterschatz, Essen, 1966, pp. 52-4, pls 17-18; Adolph Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der Zeit der Karolingischen und Sachsischen Kaiser, VIII.-XI. Jahrhundert, II, Berlin, 1918, p. 31 (Cat. no. 61), pls XIX-XX). The inhabited scrolls of the Solières cross and of the St Domitian shrine are inspired by such examples, but they are much later, of the mid- to third quarter of the twelfth century. It may well be that the Baltimore plaques were more than a century old when they were cut down for reuse.
    (2) The backs of the Baltimore and London gables preserve holes and lopped-off wood pins which show that they were once attached to the long sides of a shrine. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that this was a twelfth-century shrine of St Oda at Amay, near Huy. Oda was a rich widow, whose thirteenth-century Vita places her as founder in the seventh century of a number of churches dedicated to St George in the region of Huy. Her body was buried at Amay, where her carved sarcophagus has recently been rediscovered in the church. For the early parts of the collegiate church of St-Georges et Ste-Ode d'Amay, see L. F. Genicot, L'avant-corps ottonien d'Amay, in ‘Le Moyen-Age’, 73, 1967, pp. 349-74. For the recent discovery of Oda's tomb-slab at Amay, see ‘Le Sarcophage de Sancta Chrodoara en l'église Saint-Georges d'Amay’, Bulletin du Cercle Archéologique Hesbaye-Condroz a.s.b.l. - Amay, XV, 1977-8, partic. pp. 73-88, where Jacques Stiennon dates the sarcophagus to the seventh to eighth centuries on epigraphical grounds; the carved image of the Saint holds a tau-topped walking-stick, so that it is possible that this was the attribute she formerly carried on the British Museum gable. There she is also shown between the two Virtues of Religion and Alms-Giving, in a three-figure composition current in Mosan art of the twelfth century, e.g. on the end of the St Servatius shrine at Maastricht or the St Heribert shrine at Deutz, where the titular saint stands between Charity and Humility. The choice of Religion and Alms-Giving to flank St Oda is not accidental, since these are two Virtues particularly associated with her by the author of her Vita, written in the early thirteenth century (see Maurice Coens, La Vie de sainte Ode d'Amay, in ‘Analecta Bollandiana’, LXV, 1947, pp. 196-244). Thus, prima facie there is every likelihood that the gables come from St Oda's twelfth-century shrine at Amay. Another St Oda was also the object of a cult at Sint-Oedenrode, in north Brabant (see Forgeur 1977). However, the circumstantial evidence goes still further in establishing Amay's claim to the gables.
    (3) The relics inserted into the gables include two which are particularly revealing. The first is a relic of St Mengold, a saint of Huy, first mentioned in the twelfth century, when his Vita was written (see most recently George 1980), and chiefly famous for his châsse of c. 1170, which still survives at Huy, and which, as will be shown, is related in style to the British Museum gable. The presence of a relic of St Mengold is evidence for an origin local to Huy, which is only a few miles from Amay. Secondly, the relic of St Elisabeth of Thuringia, who was canonised in 1235 and whose body was exhumed and translated at Marburg in 1236, provides a terminus post quern for the insertion of the relics in the two gables. All the relic tituli are of one date and written in the same hand, which was dated independently to the thirteenth century by both the late Julian Brown (in an unpublished letter of 1959 in the Luton Hoo archives) and by Jacques Stiennon (quoted in Lemeunier 1989, p. 89). Thus, some time after 1236 relics were inserted in the two gables and this must have been the moment when the gables were detached from the rest of the shrine and became independent suspended reliquaries (as the big early suspension ring on the back of this object proves); cf. the four independent gables from Maastricht, now in Brussels (for a view of these alongside the shrine of St Servatius at Maastricht, see Kroos 1985, pls 11-13). It can be no coincidence that the shrine of St Oda, still at Amay, is a work of c. 1240-50 (see most recently Albert Lemeunier, La châsse de sainte Ode d'Amay, in Catalogue ‘Amay’ 1989, pp. 49-79). Its creation in the 1240s seems to have led to the breaking-up of the Romanesque shrine and the employment of its two gables as independent reliquaries. The fashion for displaying relics through crystal or glass becomes widespread in Europe at precisely this time, around the middle years of the thirteenth century, as we can see in the reliquaries produced in Paris and in the Limoges workshops, and the adaptation of the gables of the St Oda shrine to display relics, must be seen as part of this development (see Joseph Braun, Die Reliquiare des christlichen Kultes und ihre Entwicklung, Freiburg im Br., 1940, pp. 301-16; Erich Meyer, Reliquie und Reliquiar im Mittelalter, in Eine Gabe der Freunde für Carl Georg Heise zum 28. vi. 1950, Berlin, 1950, pp. 55-66, partie, p. 61). The strips of gilt-copper decorated with lozenges and used to mask the edge of the central niche on the Baltimore gable appear to be thirteenth-century and therefore probably also belong to the moment when the gables became reliquaries (cf. closely similar decorated metal strips on the St Hadelin shrine at Visé, see Catalogue ‘Visé et St Hadelin’ 1988, p. 167 (fig. 117)). Given that the semicircular enamel of the bottom border of the Baltimore gable was made for its present position as a setting for a crystal and that its foliage is similar to that of the other enamel plaques on the two gables, it follows that the eleventh-century engraved plaques of the outer border in Baltimore were not added at the time of the thirteenth-century modification of the gables as reliquaries but were reused from the start on the mid-twelfth-century châsse.
    (4) The plain, formerly gilt-brass frames around the relic windows are post-medieval replacements, although their precise date must remain a matter of speculation. At the same time the replacement plaque at the apex of the Baltimore gable was inserted, since it too is of brass. The other mends to the outer border in Baltimore and to a section of the stamped gilt-copper inner border are extremely 'archaeological', and therefore probably nineteenth-century.
    If this reconstruction of the history of the gables is correct, then it becomes possible to examine them in the context of Mosan art of the middle years of the twelfth century. Several of the following observations have been made before, and particularly by Verdier 1981, by Lemeunier 1989 and by Dietrich Kötzsche in an unpublished lecture given to the first British Museum Medieval Enamel Symposium in 1978.
    The goldsmith of the St Oda shrine shared with the masters of the St Hadelin shrine from Celles (now at Visé) a veneration for earlier works in the region: he reused a somewhat earlier silver relief as one of the major focal points of his new châsse, and he admired the much earlier inhabited scrolls of the Baltimore border enough to reuse them, even if he cut them down. He also shared with some of his contemporaries an enjoyment of symmetry, in the way that his enamels and vernis brun designs are repeated in pairs; at the same time he introduced understated asymmetries: the plaques above the trefoil arches at each end of the châsse have exactly the same layout, but contrasting details: vernis brun as against enamel, an oval crystal flanked by two round crystals as against a round crystal flanked by two oval crystals.
    As for this goldsmith's style and the range of his technical apparatus, the following may be said. The repoussé figures of the British Museum gable, and particularly the heads of the Virtues, are very close indeed in style to: (a) the angels of the Holy Cross triptych in Liège (Usener 1933, pp. 104-8; Krempel 1971, pp. 34-5, pl. 18; Collon-Gevaert 1972, pp. 198-9 (no. 22), col. pl.; Catalogue Rhein und Maas 1972, I, pp. 243-4 (no. G5); Catalogue Die Zeit der Staufer 1977, I, pp. 399-401 (no. 539), II, pl. 329; Kroos 1985, pp. 99-100, with Bibl.; Catalogue Die Zähringer. Anstoss und Wirkung, Sigmaringen, 1986, pp. 210-12 (no. 172)) and (b) the unrestored bust-length angels, carrying the Beatitudes, in roundels on the roof of the St Mengold shrine in the collegiate church of Notre-Dame at Huy (for the St Mengold châsse, see Helbig 1877; Comte Joseph de Borchgrave d'Altena, Les Châsses de saint Domitien et de saint Mengold de la Collégiale Notre-Dame à Huy, in ‘Bulletin de la Société d'Art et d'Histoire du Diocèse de Liège’, XLII, 1961, pp. 1-20, pls; Krempel 1971, pp. 30-4, pis 16-17; Kötzsche 1973 (a), p. 197; Verdier 1981, pp. 18 ff. ; Kroos 1985, pp. 102-3, pl. 141 ; Catalogue Die Zähringer, 1986, pp. 206-8 (no. 170); Lemeunier 1989, p. 84, fig. 5). Although a detailed archaeological study of the St Mengold shrine has still to be undertaken, it seems clear that it was executed at more or less the same time as its companion shrine at Huy, the shrine of St Domitian which is known to have been made by June 1172 (according to the second ‘Vita Domitiani’, it is possible to conclude that Ralph of Zähringen, Bishop of Liège (1167-91), on 8 June 1172 (sic) placed Domitian's bones: ‘in feretrum novum, argento et auro decoratum’, or according to the third Vita: ‘in loculo argenteo, quod ei jam diu fabricatum extiterat’ (Acta SS, Maii II, pp. 147, 151. For the various other sources, see Verdier 1981, pp. 73-4 (note 43). For bishop Ralph, see Küpper 1974; J.-L. Kupper, in Series Episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae Occidentalis . . ., nouv. éd. Series V, tomus 1, Stuttgart, 1982, pp. 79-80)). The same goldsmith was responsible for the St Mengold reliefs and the St Oda gable. By analogy, the latter can therefore be tentatively dated c. 1172. Whether or not the goldsmith in question can be identified with the celebrated Godefroy of Huy is quite another matter. An entry of c. 1240 in the necrology of the Neufmoustier, a house of regular canons extra muros at Huy, records a certain goldsmith Godefroy from Huy as having died as one of the canons, and another hand of the thirteenth century mentions that ‘duo composuit feretra’ for his native Huy (Liège, Musée Curtius, Legs Grandgagnage, Obituaire du Neufmoustier, VIII Kal. November - see recently Kroos 1985, p. 94 (note 111)). This is hardly sufficient evidence for attributing the St Mengold shrine to Godefroy of Huy, but legends die hard (the texts relating to the two Huy shrines were studied by Philippe George in 1982 at the fifth British Museum Medieval Enamel Colloquium and his full publication is awaited; meanwhile, see George 1980, p. 127; Philippe George, Vie et miracles de Saint Domitien évêque de Tongres-Maastricht (535-49), in ‘Analecta Bollandiana’, 103,1985, pp. 305-51, with a new edition of the ‘Vita Prima’).
    Certain heads of figures on the St Servatius shrine at Maastricht are also comparable to those of the Amay gable (for the physical condition of the repoussé figures and a full discussion of all aspects of the shrine, see now Kroos 1985, passim). The date of the Maastricht shrine may be somewhat later, perhaps c. 1180.
    The minor decorative details of the Baltimore and British Museum gables are highly revealing. Stippled designs with sunk concave roundels which house a large crystal or gemstone and flanking silver balls ('silberperlen') or small gems can be paralleled in Mosan art from the time of the Alexander head-reliquary of 1145 onwards; a particularly close similarity exists between the designs as found on the gables and those on the terminals of the undated cross from Solières, now in Liège (Lemeunier 1989, p. 87, fig. 11; A. Lemeunier, in ed. Léon Pressouyre, Terry N. Kinder, ‘Saint Bernard et le monde cistercien’, Paris, 1990, pp. 260-1 (no. 177)). Verdier 1981, pp. 10-11, discusses further examples of these settings, such as on the arm-reliquary from Lobbes, now at Binche and, in the Museum's collection, registration no. 1856,0718.1 provides a further variation on the same type of arrangement.
    Vernis brun was particularly fashionable with the Mosan goldsmiths of the middle to the third quarter of the twelfth century. The vernis brun designs on the gables have several important parallels. These were presented in the Catalogue ‘Visé et St Hadelin’ 1988, pp. 157 ff. and further studied by Lemeunier 1989. For instance, the foliage designs with the stems ending in trefoils, pods and 'corn' motifs can be found on the reverse of the cross from Solières, on a book-cover in Malibu (von Euw and Plotzek 1979, pp. 223-30 (no. V2), pls. 142-3) and on a phylactery in Boston (Catalogue ‘Visé et St Hadelin’ 1988, p. 149 (figs 85, 87)), as well as on two works of the third quarter of the twelfth century which, as we have seen, are closely related to the St Oda gable, the St Mengold shrine and the St Servatius shrine at Maastricht. Again at Maastricht, the vernis brun designs on the side of a purse-shaped reliquary, and at Tongres on the reverse of a Holy Cross reliquary belong to this group. The simpler flower designs on the haloes of this object can be paralleled on (once again) the Holy Cross triptych in Liège.
    As for the stamped copper-gilt foliage ornament of the inner borders of the two gables, there are again numerous parallels, e.g. on the St Mengold shrine at Huy or the Pentecost retable in the Musée de Cluny (Usener 1933, pp. 124-30; Peter Bloch, Zur Deutung des sog. Koblenzer Retabels im Cluny-Museum, in Das Münster, 14, 1961, pp. 256-61; Kroos 1985, pp. 101-2, with Bibl.). However, Lemeunier was the first to suggest that the very same matrix was used to stamp the gilt-copper border strips around the central field of the enamelled triptych of St Andrew now in the Cathedral Treasury at Trier (see Collon-Gevaert 1972, p. 210-11 (no. 28), col. pl.; Kötzsche 1973 (a), p. 210, fig. 18 (p. 206); Catalogue Schatzkunst Trier, Trier, 1984, p. 113 (no. 44), col. pl. 5. For the nineteenth-century provenance of the triptych from a Köln collection, see registration no. 1856,0718.1). The Trier stamped border which today surrounds a seventeenth-century image, has a slightly different edge where a well-defined groove separates the beading from the foliage (the edges were presumably executed after the foliage pattern had been stamped). The foliage pattern itself can now be proved to be identical with that of the St Oda gable. Detailed measurements confirm this: in each case the width of a single palmette is 32-33 mm and its height 23 mm (information on the Trier border - Dr Franz Ronig). This important observation implies that the Trier triptych shares a common workshop origin with the St Oda shrine from Amay, something that would never have been suspected on the basis of the enamels of the wings of the Trier triptych, which appear rather to be related to those of the London-Berlin cross (see registration no. 1856,0718.1). We are here face to face with the problem of how Mosan goldsmiths' workshops were constituted, how the different tasks were distributed within workshops, and whether or not there were specialists for one technique or another (casting, repoussé, enamelling, vernis brun, gem-cutting, chiselling, etc.). As with the vexed question of model-books and their dissemination (see particularly registration nos. 1852,0327.1, 1884,0606.3 and 1856,0718.1), so with matrices we cannot dismiss the possibility that the same matrix could pass from one workshop to another, as well as survive over more than one generation. It is tempting on the basis of a detailed comparison of the London and Trier palmette borders to suggest that the London border was stamped when the matrix was more worn, i.e. that Trier is earlier. There is even a surviving copper-alloy matrix in the Musée de Cluny, which was used for pressing out metal strips with pairs of lions and birds inhabiting a foliage border similar to that on the gables (Inv. CI. 17720 - acquired in 1909, ex-Coll. Victor Gay - H. 31 mm (max.), w. 147 mm (max.) - see also Catalogue ‘Ornamenta Ecclesiae’ 1985, I, p. 320 (no. B93)). For a discussion on the longevity and dissemination of such matrices, see Walter Schulten, in Catalogue Rhein und Maas 1972, I, pp. 318-19; Schulten, n.d., p. 23, where it is demonstrated that identical matrices were used on the Klosterneuburg ambo of 1181, the Three Kings' shrine and the Tournai shrine of 1205; while the Three Kings' shrine, begun in the 1180s, shares a common matrix with the shrine of Our Lady at Aachen (1220-38). See also Didier 1990, p. 240, for a matrix shared between the two thirteenth-century châsses of Amay and Florennes, another example of a matrix migrating from one workshop to another.
    The foliage enamels of the two gables belong to a tradition of purely decorative plaques which goes back to the St Alexander head-reliquary of 1145 and its near relative the châsse of St-Ghislain, near Mons. Enamels similar to the Baltimore semicircular foliage plaque with a cavity for a stone can be found on the Liège Holy Cross triptych of c. 1160-70, as well as on the gable of the St Domitian shrine at Huy of shortly before 1172. Therefore, yet again these two works are closely related in their detail to the London and Baltimore gables. So too are the enamels and silver-studded settings of the arm-reliquary from Lobbes, now in the treasury of St-Ursmer at Binche (see most recently Catalogue ‘Ornamenta Ecclesiae’ 1985, 3, pp. 153-4 (no. H 58); for a related Mosan arm-reliquary, now in the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, see Marie-Madeleine Gauthier, Un saint du Pays de Liège au bras long, in ‘Etudes d'art médiéval offertes à Louis Grodecki’, Paris, 1981, pp. 105-18). Also strikingly similar were the lost enamels of the Mosan gabled diptych, formerly at Montierender (Haute-Marne), some 60 km north-east of Troyes in Champagne. The diptych is known from a drawing made for the reformed Benedictine monks of the Congregation of St Maur and subsequently engraved and published in the ‘Voyage littéraire de deux Religieux Bénédictins’, of dom Edmond Martène and dom Ursin Durand, Paris, 1717, I, opp. p. 98 (for the original drawing see Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Latin 11919, fol. 285; see also Claussen 1978, who only knew the published engraving). Judging by these eighteenth-century visual sources, both the geometric and trellis patterns of the Amay gable enamels were virtually duplicated at Montierender, where they were accompanied by gem- or crystal- or silver ball-set panels on the borders ; these had backgrounds which were either hatched, sometimes with sunk concave roundels, or engraved with foliage scrolls (the drawing could be a representation of filigree, or of engraved foliage (cf. pi. no)). It is also worth noting that some of the Montierender enamels were 'paired' like the Amay enamels. Unfortunately nothing is known of the date or genesis of the lost diptych, but it may well be that, rather than being a production of the Köln workshops of the 1180s (as Claussen believed), it was Mosan and related to the Amay and Huy shrines of c. 1170. Even more striking are the similarities between the Amay enamels and those on the roof of the arm-reliquary of Charlemagne, formerly in the treasury at Aachen and since the early nineteenth century in the Louvre (Alfred Darcel, ‘Musée du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance. Notice des émaux et de l'orfèvrerie’, Paris, 1867, pp. 24-5 (nos D 26-59)). Some of the foliage patterns of the London and Baltimore gables are closely paralleled in pairs on the reliquary, although caution on this point is required, since four of the Louvre enamels were remounted in 1937, so that their present order is not necessarily original (for the remounting, see the archives of the Département des Objets d'Art). Their context is also virtually identical, since the enamels form part of the same plaque with the same beaded edges as the hatched rectangular areas with sunk concave roundels and silver balls; the only difference is that the central crystal in London is replaced by an enamelled quatrefoil in Paris. What is more, the epigraphy of the inscription and the repoussé palmette border of the silver plaque on the inside of the lid of the Louvre reliquary are similar to the inscriptions and the palmette borders of the Amay shrine (the Louvre lid interior ill. Rhein und Maas 1972, I, p. 244). It is clear therefore that the enamels of the Charlemagne reliquary must be of approximately the same date and from the same workshop as the Amay shrine. This is merely to confirm the place of the Amay shrine within the productions of the workshops of the Liège Holy Cross triptych and the two Huy shrines, probably in the late 1160s or c. 1170; the St Servatius shrine at Maastricht is more enigmatic, perhaps because of its much restored condition. The Aachen arm-reliquary can be attributed without too much risk of error to this Liège-Huy workshop and to a date close to the exhumation and 'canonisation' of Charlemagne on 29 December, 1165 (for the 'canonisation', see Robert Folz, ‘Le Souvenir et la Légende de Charlemagne dans l'Empire germanique médiéval’, Paris, 1950, pp. 203-13, and partic. p. 212 (note 48): ‘Corpus domini Karoli de tumulo marmoreo levantes, in locello ligneo in medio eiusdem basilicae (Aachen) reposuerunt’). For a discussion of the imperial iconography of the Aachen arm-reliquary and its date, in relation to the twelfth-century imperial seals, see Déer 1961, passim, and partic. pp. 62 ff., pls 3-5, 19, 23, 25-7, 30-1, 33. See also Usener 1933, pp. 108-12; Kroos 1985, pp. 100-1, with Bibl.
    Examination of all the different constituent elements of the British Museum and Baltimore gables, with the technical and stylistic parallels which can be invoked - for the silver repoussé figures, for the vernis brun patterns, for the stamped gilt-copper border palmettes and for the enamelled and gem-set border plaques - all lead to one conclusion: the gables were made by a recognisable Mosan workshop, active in the years c. 1170, whose output included the two shrines in Huy, the Holy Cross triptych in Liège, the Charlemagne arm-reliquary, very probably the lost Montierender reliquary and possibly the Lobbes arm-reliquary; parts of the St Servatius shrine at Maastricht where they are original may belong to the aftermath of the workshop, c. 1180. The consistent repertoire of this workshop implies a relative stability of personnel, perhaps over a fairly short period of time, a consistency which is only questionable in the case of the St Andrew triptych now in Trier, where the same matrix can be proved to have been used on an object whose figured enamels find no parallel among the other productions of the workshop.

    Select Bibliography: (on British Museum and Baltimore gables)
    ‘Notice of the Principal Works of Art in the Collection of Hollingworth Magniac, esq., of Colworth’, by J. C. Robinson, F.S.A., London, 1862, no. 1; ‘Catalogue of the renowned Collection of Works of Art, chiefly formed by the late Hollingworth Magniac, esq. (known as the Colworth Collection)’, Christie's sale, 7 July 1892, lot 494; ‘Catalogue des objets d'art . . . composant la collection de M.A. Tollin’, Paris, 20-21 mai 1897, nos. 93-4 (sold together to Jacques Seligman, who subsequently sold the British Museum gable to Sir Julius Wernher, Bt., in 1913 (Wernher Collection, Luton Hoo, Inv. D1-301-302), the Baltimore gable to Henry Walters in 1900); Charles Oman, A Mosan Reliquary at Luton Hoo, in ‘The Burlington Magazine’, XCIV, 1952, pp. 264-7; Swarzenski 1953, partic. pp. 154-7, fig. 2; Dinkler-von Schubert 1964, p. 129, fig. 150, pl. 47; Verdier 1975, p. 19; Richard Forgeur, L'ancienne châsse de Sainte Ode d'Amay. Sa place dans l'art rhéno-mosan, in ‘Bulletin de la Société Royale Le Vieux-Liège’, no. 197-8 (t. IX), avril-septembre 1977, pp. 163-75; Philippe George, Jalons pour l'histoire d'un culte: saint Mengold de Huy, in ‘Annales du Cercle Hutois des Sciences et Beaux-Arts’, XXXIV, 105e année, 1980, p. 184; Catalogue ‘Visé et Saint Hadelin’ 1988, pp. 98 (figs 4-5), 153 (fig. 93), 154 (fig. 95), 157-8, 160 (fig. 103).


  • Bibliography

    • Jones 1990a 65 bibliographic details
    • Bagnoli, Klein, Mann & Robinson 2011 82 bibliographic details
    • Stratford 1993 no17 bibliographic details
    • Robinson 2008 p. 88 bibliographic details
    • Verdier 1974 p19 bibliographic details
    • Kauffman 1959 p42(no94),pl.10 bibliographic details
    • Kroos 1985 pp102-3 bibliographic details
    • George 1989 pp115-26 bibliographic details
    • Verdier 1981 pp7-94 bibliographic details
    • Lemeunier 1989 pp81-9 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G40/dc13/sA

  • Exhibition history

    2011 23 June-9 Oct, London, BM, 'Treasures of Heaven'
    2011 13 Feb-8 May, Baltimore, Walters Museum of Art, 'Treasures of Heaven'
    2010-2011 17 Oct-6 Jan, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, 'Treasures of Heaven'
    1990, London, The British Museum, 'Fake: the Art of Deception'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Acquired in 1978 with other items from the Estate of the late Sir Harold Wernher, Bt., of Luton Hoo, Beds. First recorded in 1862 in the collection of Hollingworth Magniac, esq., of Colworth, Beds. Subsequently A. Tollin collection; J. Seligman; 1912 Sir Julius Wernher, Bt. From a twelfth-century shrine of St Oda, formerly at Amay (Belgium).

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


House-shrine fragment; silver and gilt-copper; repoussé; wood core with champlevé enamel and vernis brun roundels; gable end shows St Oda between Religio and Charity; Latin inscriptions; eight cavities hold various relics beneath horn mounts; borders deco

House-shrine fragment; silver and gilt-copper; repoussé; wood core with champlevé enamel and vernis brun roundels; gable end shows St Oda between Religio and Charity; Latin inscriptions; eight cavities hold various relics beneath horn mounts; borders deco

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