Explore highlights
Chatelaine plate

 

Length: 7.600 cm

M&ME 1891,10-19,59

Prehistory and Europe

    Chatelaine plate

    Merovingian, 7th century AD
    From Amiens, Somme, France

    This copper-alloy plate, originally tinned to resemble silver, would have been worn on a chatelaine. The plate would have been hung from a belt by straps attached to the loops at the top.

    When viewed vertically, the openwork design gives the vague impression of a stick figure between two other figures. The paired figures have birds' heads, and arms at an anatomically impossible angle. It is only when the object is viewed on its side, and the struts supporting the figures are ignored, that the design can be correctly read as a fish between two eagles.

    The eagle has an early, pagan significance: the Romans associated it with Jupiter and the Franks possibly with Wodan. However, similar Merovingian plates with incised crosses have been found at other sites. This suggests that the scene should be given a Christian interpretation: the eagle possibly representing Christ, and the fish, a common Christian image, representing the redeemed human soul.

    R.A. Smith, A guide to the Anglo-Saxon and (London, British Museum, 1923)

    Highlights

    Browse or search over 4,000 highlights from the Museum collection

    Shop Online

    Rare prints by the French artist, £9.99

    Rare prints by the French artist, £9.99