Base of a reliquary

Central or Southwestern French
Medieval (Gothic)
late 13th–14th century

Object Place: Europe, France


4.9 x 27.3 x 16.3 cm (1 15/16 x 10 3/4 x 6 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Gilded copper (top: 99.5% copper, .5% lead, traces of zinc and tin; feet: about 96% copper, 1.1-1.7% zinc, .8% lead, 1.7% tin)

Not On View





Low rectangular base with molded edge and beveled top with attachment holes; four claw feet; and a removable bottom plate pierced with three rectangular holes and cut at the corners to fit around the feet. Top: cast in one piece, scored, hammered, chased, perforated, and gilded; fee: cast in one piece, soldered into corners of top plate, and gilded; bottom: cast, hamered, chased, holes cut. The cased deocration on both the top and the bottom plate is against a stippled ground. On the central area of the top are two rows of four quatrefoils containing, alternatly, three ivy leaves emerging from a wide stem and three oval leaves emanating from a wide stem. Interstices in the middle are filled with four-pointed rosettes; those on the outside have trefoil leaves. Quatrefoils on the ends are cut off in the center by undecorated rectangular areas containing two rectangular slots and smaller circular holes (two still contain rivets) for attachment. The sloping sides have a series of roundels (seven on the sides and three on the ends) deocrated alternately with six-pointed rosettes and openwork trefoils with rivet holes on either side. Inetstices are filled with heart-shaped leaves, and long narrow leaves emanating from a single stem decorate the corners. The out side of the bottom plate has two rows of four roundels with stippled ground. Each roundel contains a quatrefoil with, alternately, a fantastic beast or a stem with three leaves (as on the top). Three rectangular slots, two of which correspond to slots on the top, pierces the bottom plate. Matching assembly marks are found on one end of the plates at top and bottom, presumably indicating their correct alignment.
Inscribed on the inner side of the base plate is:
Le pnt Reliquaire fut donné à la confrairie de saint Laurents en 1659 par Mrs du Châpitre de Meaux ce requerant Me Pierre Januier Recteur de cette Eglise Me Langloys Official et archidiacre de Brie luy donna les Reliques. Os du sternum de S. Cyril martyr S. Justin S. Germain une clavicule de S. Laurens et un petit os dans ce crystal Confrairie S. Laurens S. Vincent erigée en 1658.
Inscribed in the same hand on the underside of the top is:
Donné à Cregy par Mrs du Chapre Januier estant curéfci en juillet 1659.


1659 until at least 1879, church at Crègy-lès-Meaux (Seine-et-Marne), France [see note 1]. 1938, Altounian-Lorbet, Mâcon, France; September 23, 1938, sold by Altounian-Lorbet to the Brummer Gallery, New York (stock no. P15102); May 12, 1949, Brummer sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, lot 309, to Rowland Burdon-Muller, Boston and Lausanne; gift of Mr. Burdon-Muller to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 12, 1949)

[1] An inscription dated 1659 on the inner side of the plate indicates that at this date the reliquary base was given to the confraternity of St. Lawrence and Vincent at the church of Crègy. It was still at the church in 1879, when it was the subject of an article by E. Jouy, "Reliquaire de S. Laurent et S. Vincent de Crègy," Revue de l'art Chrétien 28 (1879): 95-97. Jouy suggested that the reliquary came from the treasury of the cathedral at Meaux, though this has not been proved.

Credit Line

Gift of Rowland Burdon-Muller