The Sigtuna Reliquary Bust – a Local Heroine and a Virgin of Cologne?

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Sofia Lahti
Publisher: Taylor&Francis
Place: Abingdon
Publication year: 2017
Journal: Konsthistorisk tidskrift/Journal of Art History
Volume number: 86
Issue number: 3
Start page: 188
End page: 203
eISSN: 1651-2294


A crowned, wooden bust of a female saint in the medieval St Mary’s church in Sigtuna is the only remaining example of medieval bust reliquaries in the Nordic churches. Her hollow head has housed relics, which no longer exist. Without attributes, the bust has been tentatively identified as various saints and even a heroine of local folklore. No written documents have been found that could shed light on her background. Only the two last centuries of her existence have been documented, illustrating recent shifts in the bust’s location, physical condition and perceived identity. The majority of medieval reliquary busts in Europe represented St Ursula and her companions, the Eleven Thousand Virgins; hundreds of examples of these busts are still preserved in Central and Southern Europe. The holy virgins of Cologne were popular in the North, too: they were represented in reliquary busts, but also in other reliquaries, as well as in wall paintings and altarpieces. Although the identity of the Sigtuna bust remains uncertain, it is viewed here in the context of the reliquaries of the Eleven Thousand Virgins in the Nordic churches.


Mediaeval sculpture, polychrome sculpture, relics, reliquaries

Last updated on 2020-25-02 at 05:44