Monymusk Reliquary, now in the Museum of
probably dating from the 8th century, was brought from Iona to Pictland and housed a relic
of the island's founder Saint Columba.
It is mentioned in 12th century charters at Forglen near Turriff, where it was kept on
behalf of the Monastery of Abirbrothock (Arbroath) with permission from William the Lion,
King of Scotland granted in a Deed dated between 1178-1214 held in Arbroath Charter Chest.
It remained in the custodianship of Forglen until the early 16th century when Forglen and
the House of Monymusk were in Forbes hands; with transfer of ownership from Sir William
Forbes, Bart. to Lord Cullen (Senator of the College of Justice, Sir Francis Grant of
Cullen) in 1712, the shrine became part of the Grant collection. It was bought for the
Nation in 1933.
Breac-bannoch in Gaelic means the 'speckled peaked
one' describing the Reliquary's Pictish decoration punched into silver panels which form a
background of zoomorphic figures into which have been set bronze round, square and
bird-beak shaped clasps. This 'speckling' is typical of monastic / Pictish decorative work
found in 8th century jewellery, ritual ornament and religious scrollwork. The original
silver coating of the tiny wooden casket was gilded and its raised bronze mounts set with
enamel and lapis lazuli. It is smaller than a man's hand, carved out of a single piece of
wood: 4-1/4 inches long by 2-1/8 inches in height to the opening of the lid, by 2 inches
deep. The ark-shaped lid is trapezoid, 1-3/4 inches high by 2-1/2 inches along the ridge,
its gable ends forming equilateral triangles of 1-3/4 inches per side.
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