May 21, 2008
May 21, 2008

Reliquary of the True Cross

Reliquary of the True Cross

c. 1214

Silver, gilded silver, niello, precious stones, walnut core

Overall: 44 x 31 x 4.7 cm (17 5/16 x 12 3/16 x 1 7/8 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1952.89


A lengthy Latin inscription on the frame recounts the history of the central relic--a fragment of the True Cross--and provides an exact date for its container: "You who ask about the cross: read! The heir of Judas the priest/Stole it. But when, after boarding a ship,/He sought a mild breeze, a fierce storm opposed the sorry sailors./Out of his mind, he gnawed at his own hands./In the end the blessed Virgin spoke thus to him:/‘You shall soon be well, if you seek to return what was stolen.’/ He pays back this debt to the brothers of the Temple . . . When he died, they cast him overboard, and the storm subsided./Happy they arrive at Brindisi, quiet they have returned with the cross,/Which resides beautiful in this handsome panel. This tablet was created in the 1214th year from the Lord’s incarnation in the month of February."

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