The cult of St Pantaleon has a long tradition in the Catholic Church and the 3rd and 4th century martyr became one of Porto’s patron saints.
The devotion to St Pantaleon, a doctor martyred in the ancient Greek city of Nicomedia in 303 AD, was established in Porto through the influence of a group of Armenian Christians. According to reports from the time, this group arrived in Porto at the end of the Middle Ages, bringing with them the relics of that saint, which they deposited in the Church of São Pedro de Miragaia. In 1499, by decision of Bishop Diogo de Sousa, the relics were transferred to Porto Cathedral. A fragment of the skull of St Pantaleon was kept in the reliquary bust, used for visiting the sick.
This devotional object, part of Soares dos Reis National Museum’s collections since 1941, is one of the oldest reliquary busts known in Portugal. Due to the absence of similar objects, it is difficult to say exactly when and where it was made or who made it.