Czech artisans create elaborate glass reliquary for Pope Francis

Covered reliquary for Pope Francis

Czech glassmakers have crafted a new reliquary for Pope Francis which is dedicated to one of the country’s saints - Zdislava of Lemberk. The reliquary will be presented as a gift from the Czech Bishops' Conference to the pope when they visit Rome in November.

Kunratice in Northern Bohemia hosted an apostolic nuncio on Sunday. Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo visited the village in order to inspect a special reliquary that is being prepared for the pope himself.

The object is made in the shape of a monstrance. It contains a small bone fragment of Saint Zdislava of Lemberk, a thirteenth century Bohemian noblewoman who was known for her extreme charity and piety. She was eventually canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1995 and is one of the patron saints of Bohemia.

Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo | Photo: Tomáš Mařas,  Czech Radio

Father Rudolf Repka, who runs the local church, told Czech Radio that the specially prepared reliquary within which the bone is placed is made up of three stones symbolising the Holy Trinity and three divine virtues.

“The front is then decorated by a sun from which 12 rays shine outwards. These are supposed to represent both the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. The rear of the reliquary also features glass rays of light – this time seven – which represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and God resting on the seventh day of creation.”

Despite his vivid description, Father Repka was unwilling to unveil the object to Czech Radio or anyone else besides the nuncio. Joking that, due to the rapid proliferation of photographs over the internet, it would be like showing someone their present is before Christmas.

Father Rudolf Repka,  Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo | Photo: Tomáš Mařas,  Czech Radio

The unique reliquary was crafted by the local Pačinek Glass glassworks company, under the supervision of the internationally renowned glass artisan Jiří Pačinek. He described the crafting process to Czech Television.

“The hardest part is making the sun. It has to be tender and fragile, but at the same time durable enough to survive transport and manipulation.”

Meanwhile, the reliquary’s elaborate engravings were crafted by master engraver Arno Čančík in the Northern Bohemian village of Polevsko. The village is not only located within the Church’s Litoměřicko Diocese, which venerates Zdislava as its patron saint, but also near the tomb of Zdislava herself in Jablonné v Podještědí.

Covered reliquary for Pope Francis | Photo: Tomáš Mařas,  Czech Radio

Čančík told Czech Radio that it took him around two weeks to complete the engravings.

“You cannot do this without using a magnifying glass. Some of the figures are just 4mm in size, but you still need to carve out the details, such as their facial expressions.”

In total the craftsmen are creating three reliquaries of the saint. All of them will be brought by the Czech Bishops' Conference to the Vatican on November 10, on the occasion of a general audience with the pope. The Church Father will bless them after which one will be kept by the Holy See while the others will return to the Czech Republic.

Authors: Thomas McEnchroe , Tomáš Mařas
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