Reliquary Pendant with Crucifixion
This fire-gilt pendant assumes the shape of a traditional reliquary: a box with a sliding lid, which when pulled back reveals the relics within. The form recalls some of the earliest reliquaries, including a tiny early Christian gold box discovered under the altar at Varna.
This reliquary, of course, was not a stand-alone box but was worn as a pendant (as its original loop and triple chain attest). The back and sides are plain, although the back is of interest for two reasons: it both shows the wear that occurred with such a treasured piece, and it seems to have had a name, Johannes (?), scratched into it. This may be its original owner (or a successive owner) claiming possession. Presumably the man who cherished this object wore it suspended at all times from his neck (or more likely his belt) in order to have the opportunity to gaze upon its contents whenever he felt the need.
We do not know what the contents were, but there must have been more than one relic, as the interior of the box (which retains the brilliant fire gilding in much better condition than the exterior) is divided into four compartments. Presumably there were four relics, each very small and perhaps wrapped in cloth or other protective layer. Before opening his box, the devotee would first have prayed and contemplated its exterior, decorated with a well-rubbed image of the Crucifixion.