Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Treasure from the age of Charles IV

Whilst preparing the post on the Crown of St Wenceslas I came across, for the first time, articles about the Środa Śląska Treasure which appears to have been deposited about 1348-49, and includes items which apparently belonged to Charles IV's first Queen, Blanche of Valois. There is a brief biography of Queen Blanche, who died in 1348, here.

The treasure of Środa Śląska is described here, and there is another article, which unfortunately is not very well laid out typographically,but worth reading, here. It was rediscovered in this Silesian town in 1985 and 1988, and is a reminder of the splendours of court life in medieval central Europe.

The following pictures and text are from publicity about an exhibition at the National Museum in Wrocław in 2008-09.

The most exceptional item in the Środa Treasure is a gold female crown. The detachable trapezium panels forming the circlet are set with gemstones (sapphires, garnets, spinels, aquamarines, tektites, and pearls) and enamelled. Each panel is topped with an eagle holding a ring in its beak. The sections are joined by means of decorative pins with fleuron heads. It is a female crown. It was probably commissioned for a wedding ceremony as suggested by the ring motif symbolising the marital bond and good fortune. The jewel’s last owner was probably Blanche de Valois, the first wife of the Emperor Charles IV. She died in 1348, shortly before the treasure was hidden and lost. Another important jewel is a round brooch, the largest known example of the Mediaeval ring brooch, its centre decorated with a chalcedony cameo (representing an eagle) surrounded with gemstones (garnets, pearls and sapphires). Such ornamental clasps were used to fasten ceremonial robes or ecclesiastical vestments on the wearer’s shoulder.
The exhibition also features two gold filigree pendants from the late 12th century, and another pair, with more restrained decoration, gold rings, including a signet decorated with the half-crescent and star motifs, ornamental gold tape, and a selection from the hoard of gold coins.

Treasure of Środa Śląska discovered
In May 1988, a hoard of silver and gold coins was unearthed at a demolition site within the medieval town centre Several days later, gold ornaments were found at the municipal landfill among the rubble from other sites in the Old Town. The news spread quickly attracting amateur treasure hunters and professional archaeologists. Through the end of 1988, the subsequent archaeological excavations continued along with efforts to recover gold and silver objects from accidental finders. Considering the date the treasure was probably hidden and its location, as well as the character and style of the jewels, it seems likely that they belonged to the Bohemian rulers of the House of Luxemburg and were pawned to the Jewish bankers of Środa Śląska under the reign of the Emperor Charles IV (1346-1378).
The Treasure of Środa Śląska was entrusted to the National Museum in Wrocław and shown there for the first time in 1997. It was later transferred to Środa Śląska as the Museum’s permanent deposit.

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