The Brick: a relic of Saint Donnino

A terracotta brick becomes a relic

  • engraved earthenware
  • sec. XII-XIII ?
  • 40 cm long; 14.5 cm wide; 6 cm thick

 

The legend says that about thirty years after Donnino’s death, the bishop of Parma noticed a spot near the Stirone river where a light shone every night. One night he had a dream: he saw the body of a saint lying in that specific point. The bishop decided to start the excavations, to which we owe the first finding of the martyr’s body (inventio in latin).   

The body was brought back into the Fidenza Cathedral after restoration work in the crypt around the middle of the 11th century had caused its removal. In 1207 this brick was placed near the body of the martyr, to indicate its exact position. Ever since that time the brick has been considered a relic, because of its closeness to the saint.

An inscription on the brick says: «IBI CONDITVS E[ST] COR[PVS] S[AN]C[T]I DOMNINI MARTIS[IS] CHR[IST]I» “Here is the body of Saint Donnino, a martyr of Christ.”   

The brick was probably removed in 1488, when a new sepulchral ark containing the body of the Saint was put in the crypt. However, this removal was only made known in 1517.

The brick has always been an object of devotion for the faithful. For better conservation, in the 18th it was placed into a reliquary richly decorated with embossed and chiselled silver leaf and four pedestals in golden bronze, shaped as lion paws.

IN-DEPTH BOX

Inventio: Latin word for “discovery”.

 

Embossment and chisel: These two techniques proceed at the same time. They were used since the 3rd millennium B.C. on copper or golden leaf to obtain relief figures.