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date: 28 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the visual language of early Christian reliquaries produced to contain fragments of sacred saints, sites, and events. It aims to describe and contextualize the representative as well as exceptional cases produced in various places, made of assorted materials, and decorated with diverse and elaborated decorative programs. The chapter illustrates nuances and approaches that were in use throughout the period. Moreover, it shows that the visual rhetoric—that is, the frame, composition, and selection of motifs and scenes—is capable of implying something about the dynamics of the inanimate object and the type of memory it contains. This allows us to discover clues about the visual preferences of the faithful, whether they were exalted bishops or simple pilgrims seeking heaven on earth.

Keywords: early Christian reliquaries, relic, martyr, sacred site, pilgrim, mnemonic object, staurotheke, crux gemmata

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