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What Do Reliquaries Do for Relics?

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This article introduces prominent issues that surround the Christian use of reliquaries, first discussing examples from Trier made by the renowned Archbishop Egbert in the tenth century, then turning to early Christian texts to investigate the beginnings of relic practice and belief. Of special interest are the letters and poems of Paulinus of Nola, but also the commentaries of Augustine, Ambrose, Victricius of Rouen and others that flesh out an understanding of how reliquaries were essential to the project of creating an appropriate reverentia for relics (Peter Brown's term). The materiality of reliquaries, their creation of social relations, particular issues of enclosure and beauty, and questions of potential visibility are given special consideration.

Affiliations: 1: Hunter College CUNY, Art Department, 695 Park Ave, New York, NY 10021, USA;, Email:


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