Pretty Little House or Expensive Small Bag? – The Eucharist Casket from the Chur Cathedral Treasury

Anyone who visits the Cathedral Treasure Museum in Chur without any prior knowledge, will probably be surprised: there are various works of art on display here that look like little houses. Some of these houses are in fact so-called reliquaries; they are used to store the remains or personal effects of saints. Other works of art that look like little houses were used for liturgical purposes in church services. Among them is a very special work: a Carolingian Eucharist casket.

This wooden casket, covered with gold-plated copper sheets, is approximately 20 cm long, 16 cm high and 7 cm wide. Thus, the casket is in fact small. And yet it is enormously rich with beautiful detail: dragons and doves emerge from seemingly abstract wickerwork, and the front of the narrow little house is even adorned with precious stones. There used to be nine of them, now four remain. If the little house were made of leather instead of wood, one could almost mistake it for a Dolce & Gabbana bag.

The casket, which was probably used for storing hosts, was made as early as the 8th century. Although the casket is unique, it fits perfectly into the Cathedral Treasure Museum’s collection: after all, the museum represents the history of one of the oldest dioceses north of the Alps. The diocese of Chur is approxi-mately 1600 years old – and the collection is thus of national importance. On a side note, there is also a multi-part work on display in the Cathedral Treasure Museum which is unique throughout Switzerland: a cycle of so-called images of death from the 1500s.

Image: © Domschatzmuseum Chur, Foto: Stephan Kölliker

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