May 20, 2008
May 20, 2008

Monstrance with a Relic of Saint Sebastian

Monstrance with a Relic of Saint Sebastian


Gilded silver, rock crystal

Overall: 47 cm (18 1/2 in.)

Gift of Julius F. Goldschmidt, Z. M. Hackenbroch, and J. Rosenbaum in memory of the Exhibition of the Guelph Treasure held in the Cleveland Museum of Art from 10 January to 1 February 1931 1931.65

Did you know?

In the Middle Ages, people suffering from diseases might make a journey, or pilgrimage, to venerate relics such as this one. The faithful believed that the remains of saints and holy people like Saint Sebastian could help those seeking aid such as relief from the plague.


This Late Gothic monstrance (from the Latin monstrare, "to show") is mentioned in the earliest inventory of Saint Blaise as "a large new monstrance containing relics of Saint Sebastian the martyr." Judging from surviving receipts, the reliquary was made by Werner Korff, a local goldsmith, who received payments for silver and gilding at the end of 1484. The reliquary was first displayed on the altar of the church of Saint Blaise in a solemn penitential mass on June 4, 1484, in an effort to ward off the plague. A recent examination revealed that the relic is a human metatarsal bone (one of five long bones of the human foot) and that its owner seemed to have suffered from periostitis, a medical condition that affects the connective tissue surrounding the bone.

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