Arm Reliquary of Saint Babylas

Artist/maker unknown, German

Made in Brunswick, Lower Saxony, Germany, Europe


Silver, gilded silver, enamel, glass paste stones, rock crystals, and one amethyst on an oak core

18 5/8 × 5 7/8 × 3 7/8 inches (47.3 × 14.9 × 9.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

* Gallery 216, European Art 1100-1500, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with Museum funds, 1951

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Saint Babylas (died around 250) was a bishop of Antioch and a Christian martyr. The blessing gesture seen here is commonly associated with bishops and thus a number of reliquaries exist in this form.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    According to an inventory of 1482, this life-sized reliquary originally enshrined an arm bone of Saint Babylas, a bishop of Antioch martyred around 250 A.D. The object was designed for the relic to sit in the hollow chamber and be visible through the latticework door. Traditionally, vessels for relics were often made in forms appropriate to the sacred objects they contained. Here the hand, rendered in the naturalistic style of the late fifteenth century, makes a clear gesture of blessing, an activity associated with bishops that implies their benevolent communication with the faithful. This is one of a dozen arm reliquaries once part of the Guelph treasure, an important medieval sacral collection of over 140 relics and liturgical objects that was kept for centuries at the cathedral of Saint Blaise at Brunswick, Germany, until it was dispersed in the 1930s. Dean Walker, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 114.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.