Ornate items of 12th century silverware found in the tomb of Hubert Walter are being displayed currently for visitors to Canterbury Cathedral.
The silver-gilt chalice (goblet) and paten (small plate) are being exhibited in the Treasury in the Cathedral’s Crypt until 4 April 2016 as part of a series of displays to showcase treasures from the Cathedral’s rich heritage and also items loaned to the Cathedral.
Hubert Walter was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1193 and 1205. He was also Chief Justiciar and as such was an immensely powerful man, effectively running England and raising taxes whilst King Richard (the Lionheart) was absent.
When he died in in 1205, the Archbishop was buried in the Cathedral’s Trinity Chapel where his Purbeck marble tomb is one of the oldest in the Cathedral to have survived intact.
The silverware was discovered when the tomb was opened in 1890 by Victorians determined to end a long-running debate about who was interred there. As well as a Caen stone coffin with Hubert engraved on it, items inside also included Hubert Walter’s crozier, his ring and remnants of his vestments including his slippers and a buskin (calf-length boot).
The communion set is elaborately decorated – the bowl of the chalice with a pattern of intersecting arches and the paten with an image of the Agnus Dei and two inscriptions.
It is believed that they were used for services as they show some signs of wear and it has been reported that remains of dried wine were found in the base of the chalice when it was recovered.
This year the Crypt Treasury has been used to display the ancient crozier head, which had been loaned to the Cathedral, when Primates from all the over the world gathered and met in Canterbury in January. The ivory head of the pastoral staff is venerated by the monks of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome as that of St Gregory who sent Augustine to England in 597 AD on a mission to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.
After the crozier was returned to Rome, a small teddy bear that had escaped Nazi persecution with its ten-year-old owner in 1938 was the centre piece as part of a Kindertransport exhibition and it is planned to change the item displayed every month.
The Crypt is open for visiting from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and from 12.30pm to 2.30pm on Sunday. Always check the website for notice of occasional closures.