Reliquary of Sainte Foy
The Reliquary of Sainte Foy is a 33-½ inch wooden statue covered in gold and gemstones. The reliquary holds the skull of Sainte Foy in the bust, which is made from a repurposed Roman helmet. The use of spolia, or the repurposing of Roman artifacts, connects the statue to Rome, the seat of Christianity, and its riches. The gemstones and cameos were donated by pilgrims as offerings to guide them safely on the route to Santiago de Compostela, as the Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy is on the road to the popular pilgrimage route. The date of the creation of the reliquary is unknown, but the first recording of it was in 1010 by Bernard of Angers.
The reliquary is made of wood but gold-covered, and the statue is luxurious, with the gold and gemstones sparkling in the light. Sainte Foy is sitting, with her arms outstretched, staring forward at the viewer, and her blank stare reflects the spiritual transcendence from life on Earth.
The gold conveys heavenly martyrdom, and the reflective surface evokes a connection to the spiritual world. The crown, enthroned posture, and the rich ornamentation connect her to sainthood in Christianity and support her significance. The youthful appearance of the figure reflects her actual age of martyrdom, which was twelve. Her throne has images of lambs and a Crucifixion scene, which parallels her to sacrifice to that of Christ.
The materials of the reliquary highlight Sainte Foy’s importance in Christianity. Gold’s shine, rarity, luxury, and malleability make it a divine material.
Foster, Elisa. "Church and Reliquary of Sainte‐Foy, France." Khan Academy. Accessed March