Czech crystal in the Vatican

Czech crystal in the Vatican

Czech glassmakers made a monstrance for the Pope with the holy relics of a saint

Czech crystal in the Vatican
St. Zdislava's crystal reliquary was made for Pope František in the Pačinek Glass glassworks in Kunratice u Cvikova near Česká Lípa. A unique casket with the relics of a Czech saint and patroness arrived in the Vatican on November 11 2021. The reliquary was a gift to the Pope from the Czech Bishops' Conference and from Catholic Christians from all over the Czech Republic.

A unique glass reliquary and its symbolism

Reliquaries are containers for relics, or the remains of saints. In the history of the Catholic Church, they have a thousand-year tradition and are often very ornate and expensive. For example, the Reliquary of St. Maurus in Bečov nad Teplou is considered the second rarest artefact in the Czech Republic after the Czech Crown Jewels.

This new reliquary for the Pope has the form of a monstrance, which bears a small bone of a saint in its centre. However, the fragile bone would not withstand the heat of molten glass, so a cold technique was chosen - glass gluing. The monstrance is made of clear, densely shaped glass, and the glassmakers at the Pačinek Glass glassworks in north Bohemia near Česká Lípa laboured
over it for about two weeks. Its parts then spent the same amount of time in an engravings workshop where the reliquary was decorated with fine engravings. Photo source: Vatican News

All reliquaries are shrouded in interesting symbolism, and this reliquary is no exception. Its three cameos symbolise the Holy Trinity and the three divine virtues. The front features 12 rays for the 12 apostles. At the back, the monstrance has 7 rays, as a reminder that God rested on the seventh day of creation.

Who was St. Zdislava?

A small bone fragment from the remains of St. Zdislava is hidden within the container itself. This noblewoman, Zdislav of Lemberk, lived in north Bohemia at Lemberk castle in the 13th century. During her lifetime, she had been known for her mercy, charity, and healing skills. She became a healer of the sick and a protector of the poor, especially in times of war. She founded several monasteries and a hospital, where, despite her high position, she personally went to treat the poorest of the sick. Zdislava died young in 1252 at the age of about 30. She was canonised in 1995.

Pačinek Glass

Jiří Pačinek is one of the most important contemporary art glassmakers on the European and world scene. He founded a unique glassmaking complex in Kunratice u Cvikova, which consists of a glassworks, a magical Glass Garden and an extraordinary gallery called the Crystal Temple. Pačinek Glass is also an important member of the Crystal Valley project and you can get acquainted with his work not only in the Česká Lípa region, but also in other places throughout north Bohemia - in Liberec, for instance, or at the chateau in Zákupy.