(active 1520s in Saxony)

Hallesches Heiltumsbuch

Manuscript (Ms. 44), 350 x 255 mm
Hofbibliothek, Aschaffenburg

The Hallesches Heiltumsbuch (Halle Relic Book) is a richly decorated printed guide to the former relic collection of the church of SS Maurice and Mary Magdalene in Halle, Saxony. This illustrated text was printed for Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg in December 1520 to publicise the extensive collection of relics and precious Renaissance reliquaries in his collegiate church. Only five to six years after the publication of this printed version, Albrecht commissioned an extraordinarily lavish guide to the Halle relic collection. In this second relic book, each reliquary was accurately reproduced in a full-page illuminated pen drawing, accompanied by a brief handwritten description. The existence of these two illustrated relic books – one printed, the other handwritten and illuminated – has meant that Halle's collection of highly artistic reliquaries is one of the best documented and most meticulously reproduced of its kind.

Folio 227v of the manuscript (watercolour on vellum) depicts the reliquary of St Maurice. The life-size silver reliquary statue was the most important that Albrecht owned. Its designer remains unknown. This work was the prototype of later paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop. The manuscript was illuminated probably by a pupil of Cranach, perhaps by Simon Franck (active 1525-1549, known also as Simon von Aschaffenburg, or Pseudo Geünewald).

The reliquary stood on a red brocade pillow beneath its own baldachin before the high altar. Its silver armour was partially gilded and further embellished with precious jewels and pearls. The head was made of wood or metal and the hat of gold brocade with ostrich feathers. Dangling from the tips of the feathers were gold and jeweled teardrop shaped ornaments that moved as the air circulated.