A Late Antique
Depicting a Reliquary Procession
This late antique/very early
Byzantine ivory carving seems to depict the
ceremonial procession of a reliquary shrine through a city to a basilcan church.
It may be the earliest surviving depiction of such a processional event.
The reliquary box is being carried
on the laps of two clerics,
who are seated in a four-wheeled wagon
--itself decorated by relief carvings, perhaps from the vita of the saint(?)--
drawn by two mules (note the fully "roman" choke collars on the animals).
They ride through the streets
of the city to the acclamations
of the citizens below and, in the windows of the town(?),
by onlookers who appear to be singing and swinging thuribles.
At the door of the church the
Emperor and Emperess
(She with the fancy Du) stand ready to welcome the relics.
[The photo of this object, now
in the Cathedral treasury of Trier,
and parts of the annotations here, are taken from the erudite article by Anton Legner, "Zur Präsenz
der groszen Reliquienschreine in der Austellung RHEIN UND MAAS,"
Rhein und Maas, Kunst und Kultur 800-1400,
vol. 2: Berichte, Beiträge und Forschungen zum Themenkreis
der Ausstellung und des Katalogs, Schnütgen-Museum Köln, 1973, pp. 65-94.]