[MR] Wikipedia: House-shaped Shrines

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 12 02:42:07 PDT 2021

Noble Friends,

Today one of Wikipedia's "Did you know" teasers is about house-shaped
shrines (or reliquaries). These were small boxes with a top of four sloped
panels similar to a "hip" roof. Their purpose was to house saints' relics,
usually bones though they might also have contained so-called secondary
relics. These were objects owned by or associated with saints. The style is
thought to have originated in dark ages Ireland, but spread to Scotland,
Wales and England: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House-shaped_shrine .

A photo of the Monymusk Reliquary is shown with the teaser. Art on this
particular box is definitely Pictish style, but shows Saxon metalworking
techniques. It possibly held relics of Saint Columba, a 6th century Irish
monk who settled on the Isle of Iona to convert the pagan Picts:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monymusk_Reliquary .

Later reliquaries became somewhat larger, and ditched the hip roof in favor
of a simple two-slope roof. These "*chasses*" were often elaborately
decorated in the romanesque or gothic styles and are thought to represent
church buildings. Many were made in Limoges, a town noted for its
artistic metalwork: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chasse_(casket) .

A Limoges *chasse* believed to have held relics of Saint Thomas Becket is
one the great treasures of the Victoria & Albert museum. Some 52 Becket
reliquaries survive, most probably intended for secondary relics, such as
pieces of his garments which were widely distributed by Canterbury to
promote Becket's cult: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becket_Casket .

The *chasse* reached its peak of development during the middle ages when
pilgrimage became a centerpiece in Christian religious practice. The tombs
of saints in some major pilgrimage churches were covered by huge and very
elaborate "tomb cover" *chasses.* These were lifted by sweating junior
monks using ropes and pulleys to dramatically expose the shrine beneath
during pilgrimage services. Becket's tomb at Canterbury had such a *chasse*
until Henry VIII had the shrine trashed. Glasgow Cathedral also had a
similar *chasse* over Saint Kentigern's shrine (also destroyed in
Scotland's own Protestant reformation). The tomb shrine it covered was
actually a dummy. The saint's real tomb was (and still is) in the crypt
directly below the altar.

Yours Aye,

Lord Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge  🦆

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