Dating to c.1650 I am pleased to present this exceptionally early, double-sided, silver-cased reliquary and relic of St. Francis Xavier for the consideration of my Ruby Lane clientele!
Francis Xavier (born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta;; 7 April 1506 – 3 December 1552), venerated as Saint Francis Xavier, was a Navarrese Catholic missionary and saint who was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuit order. Xavier was a companion of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits who took vows of poverty and chastity at Montmartre, Paris in 1534. He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly the Portuguese Empire in the East, and was influential in evangelisation work, most notably in early modern India. He was also the first Christian missionary to venture into Borneo, the Maluku Islands, and other areas. Xavier was about to extend his mission to Qing China, when he died en route in 1552.
St. Francis Xavier was beatified by Pope Paul V on 25 October 1619, and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on 12 March 1622. In 1624, he was made co-patron of Navarre. The fact that this reliquary dates to the middle of the 17th century indicates that it was made within 50 years of his canonization; this is exceptionally early, and was likely made by a member of the Jesuit order in Navarre.
Measuring 3" long from the top of the bail ring x 2 1/4" wide x 5/8" thick, this reliquary jewel features an ornate silver case decorated with applied acanthus leaves. Both sides of the reliquary retain their thick, faceted glass crystals. Beneath one crystal is a portrait of St. Francis Xavier painted in oils on copper; this image depicts Xavier in his monastic robes as a young monk, a cross in one hand, and a heart in the other.
The other side of the reliquary features a full-length image of St. Francis Xavier painted in watercolor on vellum. The monk holds a monstrance in one hand, and a book in the other, likely referring to his work as a missionary. He stands in an interior room with red drapery, and a tiled floor. As this image is painted on vellum, it looks rather faded through the thick glass crystal, but it is intact. But wait. . . it gets better!
This reliquary still holds it's original relic, although after 370 years, it is difficult to see what exactly the relic is; it appears to be part of a wafer that has an image of the Saint pressed into it. Perhaps this was an actual relic of St. Francis Xavier himself? It is impossible to know, but one has to wonder, as this devotional jewel has seen the passing of the centuries completely intact and undisturbed. There is no Papal seal visible, but in my experience, these are often fixed to the inside of the reliquary, so it is possible that it is a First Class relic!
In any event, this is the earliest reliquary jewel of this Saint I have come across in my 20+ years as a collector and dealer in devotional and High Church jewels, and it is a wonderful example of Spanish Baroque history. It could be worn as an impressive pendant, or hung in a home shrine. As with all of my items pre-dating 1700, this piece will be sold with a COA and valuation for your insurance purposes at no extra cost.
Do not miss this important double-sided example; up to 90-day layaway is available with 1/3 down, and domestic USPS Priority shipping is FREE!