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Behold the Crown of Liège, an ancient reliquary crown which was acquired by the Louvre in…1947? Well, despite the fact that the French State took a while to get a hold of it, the crown was manufactured back at the end of the 13th century. It consists of eight plaques each of which is ornamented with fleurons set off with precious stones and stamped oak leaves. The plaques are separated from each other by metal angels.

Each plaque also contains a tiny hollow cavity behind the central jewel. This crown was not made for a human head, but was constructed to house the contents of these cavities.

King Louis IX, was one of the most esteemed rulers of the Middle Ages: he was a legal reformer who banned trial by ordeal and introduced the concept of “presumption of innocence” to jurisprudence. Famed throughout Europe for his heartfelt Christianity, Louis acquired what he believed to be Christ’s Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the true cross from Emperor Baldwin II of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (Baldwin’s story involves the bizarre and misdirected 4th Crusade–a story for another day). At any rate, King Louis IX gave away some of the fragments of his dearly bought relics, and this crown houses them.

For a time it was believed that the crown was Parisian in origin, but art historians and jewelsmiths now believe that it was made in the Meuse Valley, which runs through Belgium, Amsterdam, and Germany.

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