This paper aims to shed light on the practice of donating jewels to churches and shrines during the Middle Ages, with a particular focus on the territory of Padova. This phenomenon has not yet been extensively studied, but is in fact attested by coeval documents in the Paduan territory. Unpublished sections of the inventory of donations in the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, analysed in comparison with written sources on the Cathedral Church, the Scrovegni Chapel, and the shrine of Our Lady of Health in Monteortone, highlight a strong connection between precious materials and Catholic devotion.
Beginning in the 12th century, the skulls of Cologne’s 11,000 Holy Virgins revolutionized relic display and ornamentation. Beyond their impressive number, these skulls were emancipated from metal shrines and displayed in large groups on monumental wall shelves and niches in Cologne and eventually across Europe. These freestanding relics underwent an extensive decorative process that involved wrapping the skulls in several layers of form-fitting cloth and textiles, which often exposed the forehead. As such these skulls invite exploration of sacred bones and their relationship with textiles and other costly materials including gold thread, embroidery, and sequins. In addition, this paper investigates the prolific phenomenon of wrapping and re-wrapping and typical of Cologne’s skull reliquaries and those farther afield in Europe.
This paper focuses on the 1361 inventory of the great pilgrimage church in southern Italy and its enumeration of objects located around the tomb of St. Nicholas. Its detailed descriptions of lamps, icons, vestments, and other works in the lower church provide critical evidence of the visual and material splendor of this medieval cult site. In its careful assessment of the material and figural features of works of art, their placement, and their patrons, the inventory delineates hierarchies of value and wide-ranging networks of authority. It also suggests how the precious but man-made objects related to manna, the miraculous substance exuded by the remains of the saint that provides a vital source of San Nicola’s prestige.