Reliquary Casket of St. Thomas Becket Limoges, c.AD1200

Medieval Gallery,

Gallery 2, Ground Floor


Focus on the Object

Techniques and Materials

Decorated with enamel and made from gilt copper, this casket was produced in Limoges, France.

Limoges was the centre of a prosperous trade in enamel work from about 1130 until 1371, when the Black Prince sacked the town.

Made from powdered coloured glass, usually bound with oil, enamel is affixed to a metal surface by firing. Champleve enamel, of which this is an example, is produced by engraving sunken fields into the surface of the object, pouring the molten enamel into the fields and then polishing down the surrounding material once cooled.

Imagery and Use

On the front of the casket you can see the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket. Three of the four knights are pictured, each with their weapons raised, ready to strike Thomas. Behind the Archbishop we see the altar and the hand of God appearing from the heavens above, reminding us of the sacred setting of this murder.

Pictured above is the burial of Thomas. His body is wrapped in cloth and is being placed in a highly decorative tomb. On the sides of the casket we see Mary and Jesus.

If you look at the back of the casket you can see a small door with a keyhole, giving a clue to the purpose of the piece. Made soon after the murder, this casket would have been produced to hold a relic of the Saint and to offer salvation to those who sought Thomasís intercession.