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1866 French reliquary with relics of the True Cross of Jesus Christ

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1866 French reliquary with relics of the True Cross of Jesus Christ

A historically important large round glass-fronted silver pendant reliquary theca housing precious relics of the Wood from the True Cross of Jesus Christ. The precious relics are displayed in a cruciform shape on the ground of collaged paper surrounded by thick gilt silver wire ornamentation and identified in Latin on a manuscript cedula label as Lionum Sanctissimae Crucis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi (Of the Most Holy Wood from the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ).  On the back, under a protective cap of silvered brass, the reliquary is secured with a seal of red Spanish wax bearing an imprint with a coat of arms of Monsignor Joseph Fesch (†1839), Archbishop of Lyon (1802–1839), Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Vittoria (1803–1822), Cardinal-Priest of San Lorenzo in Lucina (1822–1839), Sovereign Prince, and the maternal half-uncle of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. 

The following original letter of testimony is attached to the inside surface of the protective cap:

"I the undersigned declare that the present Relic of the wood of the Holy Cross is authentic by the seal to be exposed for the need of veneration of the faithful. Lyon May 3, 1866. Chapocheau, Guardian of the relics". 

The True Cross is the name for physical remnants that, according to Church tradition, are believed to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, traveled to the Holy Land in 326–28, where she discovered the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to be used at the crucifixion of Jesus and of two thieves, St. Dismas and Gestas, executed with him, and a miracle revealed which of the three was the True Cross. Fragments of the Cross were broken up, and the pieces were widely distributed; in 348, in one of his Catecheses, Cyril of Jerusalem remarked that the "whole earth is full of the relics of the Cross of Christ." Most of the small relics of the True Cross in Europe came from Constantinople after the city was captured and sacked in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade. They were carved up by the present bishops and divided with other very precious relics among the knights, who, after their return to the homeland, donated them to churches and monasteries.

Additional Info

  • ID#: 03-RSGA-12
  • Size: 55 mm (2 1/4 inches) in diameter
  • Age: ca. 1820's
  • Origin: Lyon, France
  • Materials: silver, silvered brass, glass, paper, silk, Spanish wax
  • Price: SOLD!
  • Silver
  • Orthodox Cross
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