Medieval objects are the second most commonly recorded objects on the PAS database. They account for 23% of the data set behind Roman material which covers a huge 40%. The bulk of this material is made up of the more common finds, such as individual coins, buckles, brooches and vessel sherds.
Occasionally however, we come across something which really stands out. That was the case with this beautiful medieval enamelled mount.
Made of a thin sheet of copper-alloy this mount would have adorned the terminal of an arm of a processional cross.
The front of the mount is decorated with a winged bovine animal, standing right with its head facing back towards its tail. A ringed halo surrounds its horned head. The facial features are only faintly visible as are feathers on the wings. Areas of the background retain blue enamel and it is likely that the remaining recesses also originally contained enamel settings of various colours.
This style of decoration is known as ‘Limoges’, named after the town in Aquitaine where the method was widely employed from the mid-12th century onward. A design would be carved or cast into a sheet of metal. The recessed areas were then filled with powdered glass enamel and the object fired until the powder melted and filled each area. Polishing would finish the piece to show the coloured enamel framed shiny by metal.
Limoges works of high quality multi-coloured enameled pieces adorned a variety of objects such as books, horse furniture and reliquaries and were favoured by important ecclesiastical and royal circles. The works were internationally famed and, in England, the style saw its peak popularity in the 13th century.
Limoges mounts such as this example would have been one of a set of four. Each mount would depict a different winged emblem of an evangelist, placed in a predetermined order on the reverse arms of a cross, framing the central figure of Christ. This example depicts the Ox of St Luke and the orientation of the design suggests it was originally affixed to the right arm of the cross. Example recorded by PAS suggest that the position of each evangelist was not set and variations often occurred.
Similar mounts depicting the other three Evangelists have been recorded on the database including KENT-732442 showing the eagle of St John, DENO-4E91E9 depicting the lion of St Mark, and WILT-EACA46 representing the angel of St Matthew.
This object, and those like it, provide a wonderful glimpse into the vibrant medieval world.