Cabinet items

Pair of reliquary from Saint-Zénon 19th century

Superb pairs of reliquary containing bones (ex-ossibus) of Saint-Zénon (3rd century AD). Dating from around 1840, these pieces come from a private collection.

Although the strings on the back are broken, we are convinced that these reliquaries have never been opened. Inside one of the paintings, a bone piece is no longer supported, so it is free. For this reason, the frame in question should not be placed vertically. We won’t be able to mail them either.

Historical information
Devotion to relics was initiated in Montreal while the Sulpicians were still lords of the island, well before the creation of the diocese. But it was indeed Mgr Bourget who gave this practice unparalleled momentum, with the organization of ceremonies, prayers and processions. In the funeral eulogy he gave the latter in 1885, the Sulpician Louis-Frédéric Colin, superior of the Seminary, spoke of the “unwavering outpourings of faith and charity before the relics of the martyrs and saints”.

The importation and donation of relics throughout the Montreal region is in fact one of the strategies that Bourget uses to entrench the legitimacy of a still new diocese. In this context, the holy relics, whose distribution is carefully studied, embody the continuity of the Church from the Christian martyrs of the first centuries to present times. With the considerable growth that Montreal experienced in the 19th century, new parishes had to be created; churches need to be built and, above all, decorated. The liturgy, in particular, requires that altars, to be used in worship, contain relics, human remains or memories of the saints of the Christian faith. The Montreal population strongly adhered to this cult of relics, which gained strength in the middle of the century. The people are then convinced of the power of these remains of saints and of the fact that their veneration makes it possible to obtain indulgences and healings.

Fortunately, to meet this demand, the recent excavations of the Roman catacombs provided an incredible number of new saints and martyrs emerging from the earth and sent throughout Christendom. Saint Zeno and his companions experienced very particular fortune in this context, as evidenced by our reliquary.
Visiting Italy in 1869, Bishop Bourget discovered the relics of Saint Zeno and no less than 10,203 of his companions in a Roman church. Soldiers of the Roman army converted to Christianity, Zeno and his comrades experienced martyrdom for refusing to deny their Christian faith and sacrifice to the cult of the emperor. Several full boxes left that year for Montreal. The bishop almost completely emptied the small Roman church, so that the cult of Saint Zeno was ultimately very localized in Montreal and its region.

Bourget thus succeeded in his project of reviving the faith and breathing life into the Catholic Church of Quebec thanks to such relics. It places Montreal in the continuity of the Roman Church, as shown by the size and central position of these relics of Zeno and companions around more traditional relics of European saints or holy places of the New Testament. Although it has now disappeared, the cult of Saint Zeno had a major influence in Quebec thanks to the devotion and ambition of Mgr Bourget. Countless at the end of the 19th century, these reliquaries were largely destroyed or lost thanks to a decline in interest in these saints, whose credibility is called into question. UCSS preserves two of these reliquaries, testimonies of a cult which profoundly marked the economic, social and religious history of Quebec.

4 200.00 $ + tx

Dimensions 13 × 10 × 2.5 in

circa 1900

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