Reliquary of St. Venera

Unknown authorEnd of 17th century, beginning of 18th

Grão Vasco National Museum

Grão Vasco National Museum
Viseu, Portugal

A sculpture in the round representing a slightly androgynous female figure, which has been attributed to the martyr St. Venera and is also known and recorded under the name “Veneranda”.
The figure is wearing a white tunic, which has been raised on one side and is bunched up above the saint’s knee, showing her purple undergarment. Her cloak is placed over her back, falling to the front over her left shoulder and being withdrawn over her forearms.
The saint’s realistically and carefully carved brow is slightly raised, casting a mystical glance towards heaven. Her hair is short and wavy.
At present, the figure is missing its right hand, which quite possibly would have been holding an attribute. Her left hand is placed over her breast.
Running vertically down the figure’s trunk is an oval cavity, protected with glass and designed to hold the relic (fragments of bones) that is referred to in the legend "NERANDA M.", written on a thin strip of paper. The figure is supported by a square base.
Little is known about the life of this virgin martyr, whose hagiologists report her as having been born in Gaul (France) and later killed in Rome during the persecution of Christians that took place in the time of the Emperor Antonius Pius, in around 160 AD.
As far as the worship of this saint is concerned, this is mainly rooted in Italy. However, in the time of Pope Alexander VII (from 1655 to 1667), a relic of this martyred saint was handed to the Discalced Carmelites from the convent of Torre del Greco (in Herculaneum), thus leading to her “private” worship spreading into the religious convents of this order.
Sometimes, she is depicted holding a crucifix against her breast in her left hand, while in her right hand she carries a pilgrim’s staff and the palm of martyrdom (both of which may have been contained in the reliquary).


  • Title: Reliquary of St. Venera
  • Creator: Unknown author
  • Date Created: End of 17th century, beginning of 18th
  • Physical Location: Grâo Vasco Nacional Museum, Viseu, Portugal
  • Physical Dimensions: 55 cm x 25 cm x 14 cm
  • Provenance: Transfer of the Archive of Religious Congregations
  • Type: Sculture
  • Rights: © DGPC/ADF/Photographer:Luísa Oliveira, 2012
  • Medium: Gilded wood, upholstered and polychrome, glass;

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