Sainte Odile monstrance reliquary


A delicately-chased monstrance

Acquired by the Marie-Bernadette and Michel Teheux Fund and the Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché. Fund, this silver and vermeil monstrance was made in the 17th century. The finely-executed silverware is richly decorated with scrolls, oves (‘egg and dart’ designs), fruit and the heads of winged cherubs, as well as fleurs-de-lys and clover leaves, iconographic references to the coat of arms of the person who commissioned the monstrance, Dame Bénédicte Préalle, a nun from the Abbey of Val-Notre-Dame. This delicate frieze surrounds a glass oval, above which is a Christ on the cross. The reliquary contains a fragment of one of Saint Odile’s ribs as well as a lock of the Virgin’s hair.

MD : Mathieu Dardenne or Mathieu De Fies?

The silversmith’s hallmark, a monogrammed MD, also bears witness to the outstanding quality of this reliquary. Unpublished research made by Luc Engen, working at the University of Liege, has enabled the monstrance to be attributed to Mathieu Dardenne, a master silversmith from Huy and the father of Mathieu II and Henri Dardenne, both of whom were silversmiths trained in the family workshop. The lives of the two sons are more fully documented than their father’s life and they were both well-known because there are records of them working in Antwerp and Paris (at the Tuileries and the Louvre, between 1634 and 1647). They no doubt owe much of the quality of their work and their brilliant careers to the training their father gave them. The father even allowed Henri to use some of the moulds in his workshop. A comparative study of several works by the father and Mathieu his son has made it possible to confirm the attribution of this Saint Odile monstrance to Mathieu Dardenne senior, rather than to his competitor Mathieu De Fies, another silversmith from Huy. The date of 1624 that appears on the monstrance is also important because it marks a change of abbess at the Val-Notre-Dame: Nicole de Waha succeeded Anne Jamart on October 16 of this year.

The Treasure of the Collegiate Church of Huy

This monstrance was handed down from generation to generation of the Préalle family. Today, it is exhibited at the Collegiate Church of Huy, which is certainly a plus point for the Church. Mathieu Dardenne was indeed active in Huy and the Treasure also includes two other monstrances made by him, dated 1617 and 1626 respectively. And lastly, Odile is the patron saint of the Order of the Croisiers Convent, a Huy ecclesiastical institution whose mother house was located in Huy until the end of the Ancien Régime.

Preserved thanks to patrons

Saint Odile’s monstrance was acquired by the Marie-Bernadette and Michel Teheux Fund and the Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché Fund, both of which are managed by the King Baudouin Foundation. The Marie-Bernadette and Michel Teheux Fund has as its mission to support programmes of integration of remarkable works or contemporary artistic expression in religious buildings within the Diocese of Liege. The Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché Fund supports the acquisition, conservation, restoration and promotion of works of art created by Belgian artists from all periods except those by contemporary artists.

Material / technique: 
Silver and vermeil, glass, bone and hair
Height 29 cm, weight 468 g.
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Marie-Bernadette and Michel Teheux Fund and the Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Treasure of the Collegiate Church of Huy