14-08-22-2155NE01A Monymusk Reliquary.jpg
This 4in (10cm) wide 19th century replica of the Monymusk Reliquary sold for £20,000 at Lyon & Turnbull.

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It attracted wide interest when offered by Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull on August 13.

The original Monymusk Reliquary, an embossed yewwood box in the shape of a dwelling, was made c.750 by the monks of Iona to carry a relic of St Columba, their community's founder. Many scholars believe it was the item recorded as the 'Brecbannoch of St Columba', carried by the Scots at Bannockburn and credited by Robert the Bruce with delivering his definitive victory against England.

It returned for safe keeping to Arbroath Abbey, whose lands included Monymusk, before later coming into the possession of Sir Francis Grant of Cullen and finally into the National Museums of Scotland Collection in 1933.

Faithful Copy

This 4in (10cm) wide 19th century replica is unsigned but believed to be the work of Alexander J. Brook of Edinburgh silversmiths Brook & Sons.

A faithful copy of the original, it features copper borders, applied gilt and enamel roundels and plaques and cabochon stones to the circular bosses and terminals and zoomorphic carving described as a fusion of various influences including Gallic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and Insular. Brook, as well as being a prolific silversmith, was a respected member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and was known for his reproductions of antiquarian items.

"With the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and, of course, the referendum this year there has been a keen focus on all things Scottish," said auctioneer Colin Fraser. "Not perhaps new money, but certainly new interest."

The reliquary replica was estimated at £5000-10,000 when it was consigned to L&T by a South of the Border collector. It went back to Scotland after a collector bought it at £20,000 plus 20% buyer's premium.