Hollow bronze bust - reliquary: 16th century
© Museum of London
Full image caption
Hollow bronze bust of an unknown man (possibly an apostle or a Saint). The figure has shoulder length wavy hair and a beard. There is a joint around his neck. This bust is a reliquary, a repository for holy relics and it was made in Italy. Reliquaries were found in some of the wealthiest London churches until the Reformation. They were often displayed in costly casings, and to superstitious minds were considered to have special curative powers. This almost life-sized bronze reliquary was found in the Thames at Wapping in 1870 and was probably thrown away sometime between 1548 and 1557 when 'all monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatory and superstition' were banned and destroyed. It is conceivable that the reliquary came from one of the religious houses in the vicinity, perhaps St Katherine-by-the Tower, or the Abbey Graces.
1501 AD - 1600 AD