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ca. 1800 Spectacular Spanish silver reliquary of St. Narcissus (Narcís), Bishop Martyr of Girona & Miracleworker of the Flies

A spectacular gilt silver reliquary of high craftsmanship dating to the time of the Napoleonic wars (ca. 1800) and containing a significant first-class relic of St. Narcissus, Bishop and Martyr of Girona. The design of the reliquary strongly resembles the tomb of St. Narcissus in the Basilica of St. Felix in Girona. The bone relic is housed in a small glass-sided casket affixed in the center of the reliquary and surmounted by a Bishop's mitre and crossed Bishops staff and the palm branch indicating the Martyrdom. The reliquary is hallmarked with a stamp of Antonio Desoy from Genoa (Italy) active in Girona between 1795 and 1809. The base of the reliquary is decorated with a count's crown with the initials "CDP" and inscription "A LOS S res" (To the señores), indicating that the reliquary was made as a gift to the Count and Countess whose monogram appears on the reliquary. The reliquary was most likely produced at the time of the Battle of Girona (1808) during the the Napoleonic wars and had been a part of the famous collection of Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre, the founder of the Fashion House of Balenciaga in Spain. 

Saint Narcissus (Narcís) was born in a noble family in Girona (the Northern Catalonia region of Spain) in the 4th century, eventually becoming city's Bishop. During the Diocletian persecution, he had to flee with his deacon Saint Felix, to what is now Augsburg. Upon their return to Girona, they were both arrested and martyred. His remains were put to rest in the church dedicated to his friend, deacon, and companion. In 1286, when the invading French troops led by Philip II of Burgundy that had already begun to sack the church of Sant Felix tried to desecrate the tomb of Narcissus, it broke open. A swarm of stinging flies emerged from it and chased every single invading soldier not only out of the church, but out of the city as well. The French army fled in disarray, and the city was left in peace. Since then, Girona has kept both Sant Narcís and his flies as a cherished symbol of the city. In fact, to honor both the saint and the fearless insects that saved it from the invading army, the main festival of the city is celebrated on October 29: the Fires de Sant Narcís (Saint Narcissus’ Fair). It is said that on this date there are more flies buzzing around the city than at any other time of the year. It is also said that, once the fair is over, they do not return in those numbers until the next year. Saint Narcissus is the patron saint against mosquito bites.

Additional Info

  • ID#: 03-RSGA-48
  • Size: 10 1/2 inches (26 cm) tall
  • Age: ca. 1800
  • Origin: Girona, Spain
  • Materials: gilt silver
  • Price: Price upon request
  • Silver


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