KEYS TO THE TREASURE: A Roadmap to the Exhibition

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KEYS TO THE TREASURE: A Roadmap to the Exhibition

Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion is on view until January 17, 2011 and the exhibition encourages many conversations about the connections between past and present, secular and sacred, east and west, myth and mystery, and art and science.

In this, the first of a series of blogs about the exhibition, we'll look at a few keys to understanding the exhibition. As with any journey, you need a roadmap for your travel to distant lands and times.


Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europehas been organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland and the British Museum in London and has been five years in the making.

Almost half of the objects in the show are loans from the organizing museums. The co-curators travelled across the United States and Europe to visit the other lenders, a mixture of museums and church treasuries. Many of the 135 works of art in the exhibition have never been outside of their home countries.


Box with Stones from the Holy Land
One of the oldest objects attesting to the practice of collecting souvenirs from pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude
An Ottonian ecclesiastical masterpiece from medieval Germany's famous Guelph Treasure.

Reliquary Shrine of Saint Amandus
This large, church-shaped shrine is said to have once housed the bones of a seventh-century saint who served as a missionary and bishop to the western regions of present-day Belgium.

Head Reliquary of St. Eustace
Beginning in the ninth century, containers for the relics of saints often assumed an idealized form of the relic within, such as this example.


Along the journey, you may come across a few words that you don’t know. Have no fear. We’re going to share a few with you here today. In addition, inside the exhibition, there is an online glossary to help illuminate your learning.


Type of enamel work in which outlines are placed on top of base plate to separate each area of color. Cloisonne’ enhances the artistic quality of several of the objects on view.


One who is killed because of religious belief or chooses to die rather than renounce a belief. Several of the objects in the exhibition remember martyrs.


Reliquaries are objects created to hold sacred mementos. Some of the reliquaries on view in the exhibition have not been seen outside of their church settings.


A sarcophagus is a stone coffin. There are two on view in the exhibition. One is about 500 pounds and the other weighs almost 2 tons.


Venerate means to honor an icon or relic as a ritual act of devotion. Reliquaries were created as signs of devotion and honor.