501 Treasures of Byzantium: No.20 Limburg Staurotheke, cathedral treasury of Limburg an der Lahn, Germany.

A reliquary is basically an impressive case or container in which fragments of the True Cross were kept. The Limburg Staurotheke is one of the finest examples of reliquary containers made in the tenth century. An inscription on the back of the reliquary identifies emperors Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos and Romanos I, as its patrons.

Long before it sat idle in the cathedral treasury of Limburg an der Lahn, in Germany, it was likely paraded around during battle by the Byzantine army, to bring them protection and good favour during wartime. Unfortunately, it would later become a part of the booty stolen by the armies of the Fourth Crusade and brought back to Germany.

The exquisite reliquary was constructed in two phases. The double arm cross was interestingly made first and adorned with gems. The case or container, fitted with a sliding lid, was made a few years after the cross. Of interest, is the lid itself, which features the nine central enamels showing Jesus with John the Baptists, the Virgin Mary and the twelve apostles. A handle at the top suggests that it could be carried around, for example, during battle or simply as a wall accessory, like an icon.