Medieval Christians venerated saints; their bodily remains were often displayed in special containers, known as reliquaries. Covered in gold and silver and embellished with gems and semiprecious stones, reliquaries proclaimed the special status of their sacred contents to worshipers and pilgrims. For this reason, reliquaries emerged as important objects of artistic innovation, as expressions of civic and religious identity, and as focal points of ritual action. This exhibition of approximately 135 works explores the emergence and transformation of several key types of reliquary, moving from an age in which saintly remains were enshrined within closed containers to an era in which relics were increasingly presented directly to worshipers.
Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe has been organized by the Walters Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and The British Museum. The project received important early support through planning grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Magnanimous gifts from Paul Ruddock and an anonymous benefactor made the catalogue possible. We acknowledge with gratitude the support of Marilyn and George Pedersen and the Sheridan Foundation, which together with additional implementation funds from the Kress Foundation, a Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and gifts from other generous individuals made the exhibition possible. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.