Reliquary crucifix

This crucifix pendant is actually a reliquary. The knob at the bottom of the cross unscrews and panels on both sides open to reveal small compartments. Relics and other valuable items could be stored within. On one side, there is a figure of Christ Crucified. On the other side is a figure of the Virgin Mary. The blooms below her feet are unusual and quite interesting: they appear to be a chrysanthemums, a flower popular in Japanese decorative arts. This crucifix reliquary was, in fact, made in Japan, perhaps for Western Christian missionaries working there. The decoration was made with a technique called sawasa, which involves applying lacquer to a gilded metal surface, then both incising and adding raised relief decoration to create stunning contrasts in black and gold.

17th century
Object size: 15.0 x 11.0 x 2.5 cm
Accession No.
Collection of
Asian Civilisations Museum