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Photo of Trier Cathedral Treasury

St. Andrew's Altar (c.980)

St. Andrew's Portable Altar, made c.980 AD in Trier. This fascinating reliquary altar enshrines a sole of St. Andrew the Apostle's sandal. This relic is one of those said to have been brought from the Holy Land to Trier by Empress Helena in the 4th century. The splendid reliquary was commissioned by Archbishop Egbert (977-93), who had a special devotion to Saint Andrew. The portable altar consists of an oak box covered in gold and ivory and topped with a gilded model of the saint's foot, complete with bejeweled sandal strap. It has a sliding lid so that the relics inside could be shown and touched. The long sides are fixed with smooth ivory plates affixed with gold lions and enamel medallions of the Four Evangelists. The plates are surrounded by bands of enamel platelets, gemstones, and pearls. One of the short ends has two Saint Andrew's crosses made of pearls; the other end has a gold coin with the portrait of Emperor Justinian I surrounded by pearls and red garnet. The reliquary was made to be portable, so that it could be carried by kings and bishops when they traveled and used for Mass when they were at home. There are rings on the lion-shaped feet and on the top, allowing the portable altar to be hung or carried in processions.

Photo © Holly Hayes.

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