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Monymusk Reliquary

Excerpted from the National Museums Scotland.

 

The Monymusk Reliquary belongs to a small group of early Christian house-shaped reliquaries. Reliquaries housed precious relics associated with Christian saints, although the Monymusk Reliquary is now empty.

The casket and lid are each carved from a solid piece of wood, and covered in thin bronze and silver plates. The silver plates are decorated with very faint interlacing animals and with bronze mounts featuring red enamel. One of two enameled hinge plates survive that would have attached a strap so that the Reliquary could be carried, possibly around the neck.

From its ornamentation, the Reliquary is thought to have been made towards the beginning of the 8th century. It was preserved at Monymusk House but it is uncertain for how long. Since the 19th century it has been identified by some with the tradition of the Brecbennach of St Columba which was carried before the Scottish army in battle.

Note: Monymusk was purchased by the Forbeses in the 1560s. The Forbes of Monymusk built the House of Monymusk sometime thereafter. William Forbes (1578 - abt. 1650) became the first Baronet of Monymusk in 1626. He was a descendant of Duncan Forbes, second son of James Forbes, 2nd Lord Forbes.

Notes from Clan Forbes Historian Alex Forbes of Druminnor Castle

 

Portable reliquaries were carried into battle in the van of the Scottish army, since the relics they contained were believed to bring good fortune to the Scottish army.  This reliquary is thought to be the famous Brechbennoch which was borne before the army of Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, by its hereditary keeper, Sir John de Monymusk, who was killed there. It was brought to public attention again 600 years later, when it emerged from the Library at Monymusk House.  How it arrived there, or whether it had always been kept at Monymusk, is not known.  

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