13 October 2023, 11:31

St. Stephen's purse is a reliquary from the Achaean clenodes

St. Stephen's purse is a reliquary from the Achaean clenodes
Saint Stephen's purse is part of the regalia of the Holy Roman Empire. Along with the 'Imperial (or 'Coronation') Gospel' and the 'Sword of Charlemagne', this item is one of three imperial treasures traditionally kept in Aachen. A revered relic that occupies a unique place in history.

A rectangular golden reliquary decorated with precious stones. On the side faces there are four medallions with images of the Mother of God, a fisherman, a falconer and a bird catcher. Individual parts of this item were created in different years: the reliquary, probably in the first third of the 9th century, its clasp - in the 15th century, the back side made of wood around 1827.
During the coronation celebrations in Aachen, the "purse of St. Stephen" was initially placed only among other imperial regalia. But after the actual coronation, he was placed in a special cavity of the throne in which the emperor sat. Thus, it was supposed to symbolize that the throne stands on the ground from the Holy City, which is sanctified by the blood of the martyrs.

Stephen the First Martyr is a Christian saint, one of the first Christians. He was a deacon in the early Christian church, responsible for serving the community and distributing aid to the needy. After an argument with the members of the synagogue, he was arrested for blasphemy against God and Moses and against the Temple and the Law. This led to a trial and subsequent stoning to death.
According to one of the legends, the "purse" appeared during the martyrdom of Stephen. He is said to have prayed for the souls of his persecutors as he was being stoned to death. In answer to his prayer, an angel appeared and handed him a purse filled with relics rumored to be fragments of the Holy Cross and other precious religious artifacts. This wallet, according to legend, protected Stephen's body from stones thrown at him.

The historical significance of St. Stephen's purse lies in its association with a pivotal moment in the early Christian church and the veneration of relics. Such objects, associated with holy or religious events, have played an important role in Christian tradition and worship for centuries. They serve as tangible reminders of the faith and sacrifice of holy people.
The purse was believed to have been kept in the church of San Lorenzo fuori le mura in Rome until Pope Leo III presented it to Charlemagne. The imperial regalia of 1794 was taken to Paderborn under the threat of loss to the French republican troops. In 1801, they were added to secular values in Vienna.

During the Second World War, among other imperial regalia, the "purse of St. Stephen" was kept in Nuremberg by order of Adolf Hitler, and after the war it returned to Vienna. A replica of the reliquary is on display today in Aachen.


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