For Sale: Renaissance-Era Reliquary Pendant in Book Form

Courtesy of Les Enluminures

There are no words in this tiny book, but the engraved spine gives it an unmistakable codex shape. Made in Southern Germany c. 1550, this fascinating and unique pendant in the form of a book instead showcases devotional artwork and likely harbored a relic as well.

“Nothing could be more satisfying, intellectually and devotionally, than combining the functions of the personal reliquary and the book,” according to Les Enluminures, a gallery that specializes in manuscripts, miniatures, and rings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, which is currently offering the object for $22,000.

The front of the gilded silver book depicts the nativity and the back the annunciation. Hinged like a locket, it opens to reveal Christ on the right side and an aureole which might once have have held a sacred sliver of bone or a curio on the left. As a pendant, it would have been worn close to the heart. 

The relic is missing, but says Les Enluminures specialist Kristen Racaniello, “I actually find that almost more powerful. The abstract space of the aureole has become a contact relic reminding us of the past presence of the sacred material of the saint.”