This month we have a new item on display in the Cathedral Crypt, a 14th Century Mazer, which is kindly on loan from the St Nicholas Hospital, Harbledown.
NOTE: The mazer will not be on display from 4pm on Friday 27 May until 10am on Tuesday 31 May.
A mazer is a bowl made from wood and was a very popular drinking vessel during the middle ages. They were usually made from maple and this particular example beautifully demonstrates the speckled patterning of the wood from whence it gets its name (from the German work Masar which means spot or speckled).
This particular mazer is of specific interest as the crystal in the centre is said to have come from Thomas Becket’s shoe. The story goes back to the early 1500’s when the renowned scholar, Erasmus, stopped at St Nicholas Hospital on his way to Canterbury and witnessed the following:
‘… an almshouse of some old men, one of whom runs out, as soon as they perceive a horseman approaching and after sprinkling him with holy water, offers him the upper leather of a show bound with brass in which a piece of glass is set like a gem. This is kissed and money given to him…’
Erasmus later states that the shoe was said to have belonged to Becket. The shoe has long since gone, but legend has it that the crystal set at the heart of this particular mazer was taken from the shoe worn by Becket at the time of his murder.
The mazer will be on display until Friday 6 June. It is certainly a curious object that gives us a glimpse into medieval pilgrimage and the history of Becket.
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 for special services and community events.