Capsella reliquiarum – the Novalja reliquary chasse

This early Christian bronze chest is a unique reliquary in Croatia and one of few of its kind in the world.

It was discovered in 1971 during a renovation of a house owned by Vladimir Vidas. Most of the documentation on the Reliquary Chasse was written by Anđelko Badurina. The chasse is presumed to date back to the fourth century and is covered with brass plates, approximately 27.5 x 18 x 16.5 cm in size, engraved with 32 scenes from the New and Old Testament, two wildcats, five deer, seven trees and a grapevine.

Newly discovered plates portray Moses Striking the Rock, the Call of Moses, Noah in His Ark, Daniel in the Lions’ Den and the Sacrifice of Isaac. The New Testament scenes pertaining to the Gospel According to John illustrate the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish or the Miracle at Cana, the Resurrection of Lazarus, the Good Shepherd, Virgin Mary Orans and the Healing of the Blind Beggar. The themes are not in biblical chronological order, but are related to the cult of martyrs. The chasse is therefore presumed to date back to the middle of the fourth century when Christianity was free and thriving and the cult of the martyrs was worshipped. In all likelihood, this artefact originates from the Hellenistic East 363 years ago when Novalja was devastated by earthquake.

The rebirth of the Novalja reliquary was honoured on the 186th anniversary of the Archaeological Museum in Zadar through the „Discovering the Secrets of the Novalja Chasse” event held on 30 November 2018, which encompassed the presentation of new findings about the Novalja reliquary and a demonstration of chasse-making.

This valuable work of art is held at the Archaeological Museum in Zadar and, once designed, its model will become a part of Croatian souvenir collection. The Art History Department at the Ministry of Science has approved the scientific project in collaboration with the University of Maribor and the Archaeological Museum in Zadar.


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