Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe at the British Museum
Avoid the crowds and join us for this private view of some of the finest treasures from the medieval age.
Curator James Robinson will give a brief introduction to the exhibition, which features over 150 objects from more than 40 institutions – including the Vatican, churches in Europe and museums in the USA – as well as the British Museum's own pre-eminent collection.
The use of relics in devotional practice first developed during the medieval period and became a central part of Christian worship. These precious objects were usually set into ornate containers of silver or gold known as reliquaries, opulently decorated by the finest craftsmen of the age. They had spiritual and symbolic value and reflected the importance of the sacred contents.
The exhibition traces the evolution of the cult of the saints from the 4th century AD to the peak of relic veneration in late medieval Europe. Relics featured in the exhibition include three thorns thought to be from the Crown of Thorns; fragments of the True Cross; the foot of St Blaise; the rib of St Peter; breast milk of the Virgin Mary; a hair of St John the Evangelist; and the Mandylion of Edessa (one of the earliest known likenesses of Jesus). Treasures such as these have not been seen in significant numbers in the UK since the destruction of saints' shrines during the Reformation