The reliquary of St Maurus
The reliquary of St Maurus is evidence of Romanesque goldsmithing’s extraordinary creative and craft quality. This outstanding monument was completed for Benedictine Abbey in Florennes in the first quarter of the 13th century. The history of this rare monument is immediately remarkable on several planes. It’s shaping varies in many details from other reliquary in this region – Cologne-Mosan – and therefor has no direct comparison. That’s why, it has not been possible to pin-point in which irrevocably significant goldsmith workshop it was created. It was primarily completed for the remains of St Maurus and St John the Baptist preserved in the Benedictine Abbey in Florennes, Belgium, but according to analysis contains other relics.
As a result of many circumstances, which do not lack any dramatic elements (e.g. the filling and destruction of the monastery and the mysterious rescue of the reliquary), it reappeared in Bečov, Bohemia at the turn of the 19th century. The plot thickens with the reliquary’s disappearance at the end of Second World War. This unique monument was successfully rediscovered in the Czech Republic in 1985. The successful investigation of Czech criminologists was so interesting that it became the subject of a detective novel.
Above all, the execution of the statuettes and reliefs is captivating from an artistic point of view, which places the reliquary among the most significant monuments in the context of the Middle Ages in Europe. The attraction here is on the uncommon liveliness and expressiveness within the Romanesque period – the spirited expressions of the apostles have portrait features and the reliefs stand out with creative composition. Another uniqueness is the work of the Old Testament scenes in enamel. An independent chapter is formed by antique gems (miniature art works created more than two thousand years ago), used secondarily as part of the decoration of the filigreed elements of the reliquary. The problematics of the restoration work is also unusual. The reliquary was found in a hiding place under the floor of the chapel, buried in soil and in a state of decay. Being dealt with here is actually an archaeological find, many parts were significantly damaged and the extent of the work on renewal was extraordinary.
It was often necessary to revive goldsmith techniques from the Middle Ages, of which some had been long forgotten. On the other hand modern analysis, and in some cases new restoration processes had to be used and developed.
This artistically and historically significant reliquary abounded in rich decoration directly invites detailed research and documentation. Many unique photographs could come into existence only because of the complete disassembly of the monument and are already unrepeatable. This is how the idea to share this interesting and voluminous documentation with the public.