ARTS & CULTURE
07/06/2011 01:04 am ET Updated Sep 04, 2011

British Museum "Treasures of Heaven" Exhibit Shows Medieval Religious Artifacts

The British Museum's Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe exhibition is an extraordinary collection of religious objects that explores the power relics had in medieval culture. Items on display include a fragment of the True Cross, a reliquary of a thorn from the Crown on Thorns (given by Mary, Queen of Scotts to King Henry II), hair of the Virgin Mary.

Relics, the physical remains of holy men and women and objects associated with such people, were a central part of the spread of Christianity in the Middle Ages. Their popularity fostered a culture of pilgrimage to churches across Europe and Asia Minor that possessed such artifacts. Reliquaries, in which the relics were stored, evolved from simple containers into lavish, often ornate works of art that included in gold, silver and semi-precious stones. The evolving decoration of reliquaries gave rise to new forms of design in art and architecture of the time.

The exhibition, which opened June 23, was organized by the Walters Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the British Museum It is currently at the British Museum through October 9th.