Sentimental Jewelry 27 Religious Jewelry post 201
Religious Antique Jewelry From Churches and Temples -3.
We have been discussing Antique Sentimental Jewelry with a focus on Religious emotions. Over the last two weeks, we looked at personal religious jewelry.
Today, we will look at religious jewelry related to churches and temples.
#5595 Beautifully made ring in the 1700's.
Besides jewelry worn by secular individuals, a great deal of jewelry was donated to religious institutions. In Europe, the Papacy and the Church in General, were the recipients of enormous amounts of jewelry. In many countries, young women with no prospects of marriage, entered convents as did young men enter monasteries. They were often accompanied by large and valuable jewels, which were donated to the convent or monastery.
These hordes of jewelry would lie unworn and unused in most religious institutions in Europe until some major event occurred.
Powerful royalty eyed this wealth with greed and when possible, dissolved the monasteries and other religious institutions, pocketing the wealth for their own purposes. In the 16th century Henry VIII dissolved all Church institutions in the UK, using the wealth to fund his martial projects.
When the Portuguese King decided to nationalise such institutions (monasteries and convents) in the 19th century, much of this jewelry came onto the market. It was intended to help the poor, but that project did not materialise. Today, we can still find some very old jewelry that originated in Portugal from this period that was 'liberated' to the open market after the monasteries and convents were dissolved and not melted down for alternative use.
#5849 Another large Iberian ring.
Naturally, war was a huge game-changer.
During the French Revolution and other wars in Europe, Churches and other religious institutions were often sacked and their wealth looted by soldiers of all ranks. As is typically the case, most of the jewelry was melted for the gold/gem value and thus lost forever.
Where does one begin to discuss the looting by colonial powers (European and Persian) in India? Many wonderful and famous gems were said to originate in Hindu temples.
#6954 Girandole brooch and earrings from the 18th century.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
In the East, the wealth of many Hindu temples is legendary.
The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is in the state of Kerala, India. Look at 'photos of the outside - the mind boggles at the richness of the carving, which is almost too-detailed and too complex for our minds to comprehend. Even more astonishing is what was discovered in 2011 - that there is well over (a conservative estimate) 22Billion Dollars (yes, billion, with a B) in gold and jewelry stored there in a single vault. It is one of a few vaults - the only one thus far opened. This is jewelry that was partially donated by the wealthy then-ruling family of the area and partly by religious pilgrims and devotees over hundreds of years.
While perhaps not reaching the extent of this collection, most Hindu temples in India adorn the figures of their gods with jewelry, often with genuine gemstones and gold.
As part of their religion, Hindus will dress their gods, including jewelry. While many jewels that so richly adorn the myriad Indian holy figures are paste, many of them are genuine jewels. The donation of valuable jewelry to religious figures is an expression of religious adoration. The unaffected religious emotion still commonly seen in India is perhaps a lesson to us, more jaded souls in the West.
#5594 Big Iberian earrings.
On the other side of the coin, reliquaries are remnants of saints and other holy figures that are held in a jewelled mount and collected by the devotees as a means of bringing the powers of the religious figure closer to themselves. Beautiful containers intended to hold a single hair or fingernail of such a person are to be found in Europe. While the holy remnant is not allowed to be sold, the artsy holders are and they can still be found for sale in countries like France. Reliquaries may be in the form of little boxes/frames, but are often incorporated into a piece of jewelry.
Jewelled container for a religious relic.