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Pendant reliquary cross

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1450-1475 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, silver gilt; ruby, sapphire, garnet, pearl

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 52, shelf A, box 8

The images decorating the back of this cross were often used as a focus for meditation in the late medieval period. The scenes on the lid show the Instruments of the Passion – scourge, whip, lance, sponge and nails – which were used during the Crucifixion. A tiny fragment of one of them may have formed a relic, stored in the cross's now empty interior. Pearls symbolised purity, and the red gems may have symbolised sacrificial blood shed by Christ.

The jewellery worn in medieval Europe reflected an intensely hierarchical and status-conscious society. Royalty and the nobility wore gold, silver and precious gems. Humbler ranks wore base metals, such as copper or pewter. Colour (provided by precious gems and enamel) and protective power were highly valued.

Physical description

Pendant Reliquary Cross, silver, silver gilt, ruby, sapphire, garnet, pearl. On the obverse high collets are set in corded rings on the centre and on the arms. The rings are set with small beads. The collets contain (left) a ruby, (centre) a sapphire, (right and bottom) garnets added in the nineteenth century. Between the arms are four pearls set on short stems issuing from large round beads. The reverse, of plain silver-gilt consists of a flat plate, pinned in place, under which the relic would have been kept. It is engraved with five roundels depicting the Instruments of the Passion: the three nails, the sponge, the lance, the scourge and a motif which may be the rope.

Place of Origin

Germany (possibly, made)


ca. 1450-1475 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silver, silver gilt; ruby, sapphire, garnet, pearl


Length: 3.5 cm, Width: 3.5 cm

Descriptive line

Pendant reliquary cross. Silver, silver gilt, set with ruby, sapphire, garnets and pearls. Germany, ca. 1450-1475

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Lightbown, Ronald, Medieval European Jewellery, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992, cat.53, pp.510-511
Campbell, Marian, Medieval Jewellery in Europe 1100-1500, London, V&A Publishing, 2009, p.17, fig.11


Silver; Gold; Sapphire; Garnet; Pearl; Ruby



Subjects depicted

Instruments of the Passion


Metalwork; Jewellery; Religion; Christianity


Metalwork Collection

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