Gold and garnet disc brooch

Lombardic, late 6th-early 7th century AD
Said to be from a grave found near Belluno, Italy

Possibly from a high-status female grave

The original assemblage comprised this fine gold and garnet cloisonné disc brooch, together with a gold finger-ring with punched decoration, a gold pin ending in the shape of a hand (to hold a pearl, which is missing from the wire between the forefinger and thumb), a gold cross appliqué with punched decoration, probably from a funerary veil or shroud, and gold beads.

In contrast with the grave group from Sutri, the jewellery from Belluno is almost entirely Mediterranean influenced with no trace of Germanic animal decoration. It shows that high-ranking Lombards began to abandon their native style of dress in favour of local fashion quite soon after their conquest of much of Italy, although they continued to form a ruling caste. Some of the jewellery may even have been manufactured by native craftsmen forced into servitude by the Lombards.

About this time the large, single disc brooch replaced the earlier, traditional bow brooches in the Lombardic and also the Merovingian regions. The brooch shown here was probably made in either Italy or southern Germany. Where it has been damaged and some of the garnets are missing, the framework of gold partitions of the geometric cloisonné decoration can be clearly seen. The cross in the centre may be simply decorative, but a religious significance cannot be ruled out. The Lombards had been largely converted to Christianity before settling in Italy, although, like a number of other Germanic peoples, they believed in the heretical Arian creed. It has also been suggested that the bright red colour of the garnets may symbolize the Crucifixion or martyrdom.

Find in the collection online

More information

Bibliography

N. Christie, The Lombards (Oxford, Blackwell, 1995)

A. Castagnetti and G.M. Varanini (eds.), Il Veneto nel medioevo. Dalla (Verona, Banco Popolare di Verona, 1989)

Dimensions

Diameter: 4.500 cm (brooch)
Length: 15.200 cm (pin)

Museum number

Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks

Britain, Europe and Prehistory
AF.529

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore