Plaque from a Reliquary Shrine 1160–80

Among the most splendid objects in the great churches of Cologne are large architectural shrines containing relics associated with local as well as biblical saints.

The most celebrated of these is the reliquary for the bones of the Three Kings which dates from around this period. But there were many more. These ambitious goldsmiths’ works are among the greatest artistic achievements of their time.

Refined decorative fragments like the small rectangular plaques shown here are often all that remain of these monumental objects as many of these shrines were dismantled or even destroyed following the secularization of church property in this region in the first decade of the nineteenth century. During later efforts to restore shrines, some fragments were replaced and the originals sold to collectors and museums.

If you want to hear how the Three Kings ended up in a splendid box in Cologne, follow the History of the Germans Podcast which is about to cover this soon. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all major podcasting platforms.

Metropolitan Museum New York

Accession Number: 17.190.2136

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