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Antique Catholic Reliquaries from Naples

Antique Catholic Reliquaries from Naples, Italy

In the 19th century, Naples, Italy, continued to be a significant center for Catholic religious practices and artistry, especially in the realm of reliquaries dedicated to saints. Reliquaries are ornate containers that hold the physical remains or personal belongings of saints and are considered sacred objects of veneration within the Catholic tradition.

During this period, Naples was known for its rich artistic heritage and deep-rooted religious fervor, making it an ideal setting for the creation and display of elaborate reliquaries. These objects were often crafted with meticulous attention to detail, reflecting the devotion and reverence of both the artisans and the local population.

The 19th century saw a resurgence of interest in preserving and displaying relics, partly due to the Catholic Church's efforts to strengthen faith and piety among the faithful. Relics were believed to possess a spiritual connection to the saints, and reliquaries served as tangible reminders of the divine and the miraculous. These reliquaries were often displayed prominently in churches, cathedrals, and chapels throughout Naples, becoming focal points of religious ceremonies and pilgrimages.

The artistic styles of these reliquaries varied, reflecting the evolving tastes of the era. From Baroque extravagance to neoclassical simplicity, the designs captured the prevailing artistic trends while maintaining their sacred significance. Skilled artisans employed a range of materials, including precious metals, gemstones, and intricate filigree work, to adorn these reliquaries with intricate details that highlighted the sanctity of the enclosed relics.

One of the most famous examples of 19th-century Neapolitan reliquaries is the San Gennaro Chapel in the Naples Cathedral, dedicated to the city's patron saint. The chapel houses the relics of Saint Januarius (San Gennaro), and its reliquary, a magnificent piece of goldsmithing, is known for its opulence and artistic intricacy. The blood of Saint Januarius, which is believed to liquefy miraculously, is enshrined within a precious reliquary, a spectacle that draws pilgrims and visitors alike to witness the event.

A large number of elaborate reliquaries were created during the 1860's and certified by Archbishop Fr. Tommaso Michele Salzano (†1890), Titular Bishop of Tanis and Auxiliary Bishop of Napoli (1854-1890).

In summary, the 19th century witnessed the continuation of Naples' longstanding tradition of creating elaborate Catholic reliquaries. These artistic masterpieces served not only as vessels for sacred relics but also as expressions of the deep spirituality and artistic prowess of the time. Today, they stand as a testament to the enduring devotion of the faithful and the rich cultural heritage of Naples.

We currently have a small selection of fine Neapolitan reliquaries available for placement. 

Frame Reliquary with relics of St Paschal Baylon, the Virgin Mary & 23 Important Saints

Profusely decorated 19th-century glass-fronted gilt wood frame reliquary housing relics of the Veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary and 23 Important Saints centered around the portrait and relic of St. Paschal Baylon. On the back, the reliquary is secured by a vertical silk cord held in place by two seals of red Spanish wax with an imprint of a coat of arms of Archbishop Fr. Tommaso Michele Salzano (†1890), Titular Bishop of Tanis & Auxiliary Bishop of Napoli (1854-1890)

  • ID# 26-RSCRM-5
  • Size 34 x 30 cm (13 1/2 in x 11 3/4 in )
  • Age ca. 1850s
  • Origin Italy, Naples
  • Materials Wood, glass, paper, silk, silver, Spanish wax
  • Price Price upon request

1866 Large documented reliquary theca with relics of the Veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary & 5 Martyr Saints

Large oval fancy glass-fronted brass reliquary theca housing a relic of the Veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and first-class relics of five Christian martyrs: St. Verecundus of Verona, St. Secundinus, St. Modestus, St. Felicitas, & St. SimpliciusCentered around a portrait of St. Paschal Bylon, the relics are affixed to a profusely decorated ground and identified in Latin on a  manuscript cedulae labels. On the back, behind the protective cap, the theca is secured with a perfectly preserved seal of red Spanish wax bearing a faint imprint of a coat of arms of Cardinal Tommaso Michele Salzano O.P. (†1890), Auxiliary Bishop of Naples, Italy. The theca is accompanied by the original matching authentics documents issued and signed by Monsignor Salzano in 1866. 

  • ID# 32-RSINR-5
  • Size 105 x 88 mm
  • Age ca. 1866
  • Origin Naples, Italy
  • Materials Brass, glass, silk, paper, Spanish wax
  • Price $3,750

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