This 18th century altar stone with relic compartment possibly comes from Sint-Jacobskerk in Ghent, Belgium. Dark gray limestone carved with five crosses. Base has a metal receptacle sealed on one side with lead. We acquired this stone several blocks down the street from the cathedral. The relic may or may not have been removed from the back of the stone. There is evidence of attempts to remove the lead seal that appear to have been unsuccessful. We do not care to disturb it to find out.
The church in Ghent is dedicated to the apostle Saint James the Greater (as opposed to the disciple Saint James the Lesser, who was said to have written the book of James and to have been the brother of Jesus). It may be that the relic that could still reside in this stone is related to Saint James the Greater.
James the son of Zebedee is the saint venerated on the famous pilgrimage walk in Spain to his tomb at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. His symbol is the scallop shell, which interestingly enough is often found fossilized in limestone like this. There are no visible fossils in this stone, though.
The stone measures 11 1/4 x 11 1/4 x 1 1/4 inches and weighs 15 lbs. 10 oz.