Silver bowl

Carolingian, 9th century AD
Found in Spain

An Ecclesiastical vessel

The bowl, or pyx, is made of gilded silver and niello. It has a knobbed lid, decorated in relief with rosettes of acanthus leaves, some enclosing crosses, and panels of vine tendrils inhabited with birds. The acanthus designs are of Mediterranean origin, first appearing as an architectural feature in Classical Greece, while the birds in vines are a Christian symbol adopted from the Anglo-Saxons to represent Paradise, or Christ (the True Vine) in union with his church.

The bowl was probably made in northern France or Germany and is a fine example of the revival of Late Antique crafts and traditions that began in the late eighth century under the patronage of the Carolingian emperors. North-western Europe became the main cultural centre of the West when, under Charlemagne (742-814), court schools of scholars and artisans were established at royal villas, such as Aachen, and at the great monasteries. There the copying of Antique manuals and Byzantine texts inspired the revival and improvement of craft techniques and design. The secular aristocracy further encouraged craftsmanship and goldsmiths were afforded special protection in law. For economic reasons gold had been replaced by silver, both for coinage and much metalwork, but gilding, as on this bowl, was commonly used to give the impression of solid gold.

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More information


C.H. Read. and A.B. Tonnochy, Catalogue of the silver plate, (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1928)

S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)


Diameter: 12.000 cm
Height: 8.500 cm
Weight: 210.660 g (lid)
Weight: 210.660 g (lid)
Weight: 210.660 g (lid)

Museum number

Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks

Britain, Europe and Prehistory


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