The Hexham Plaque

Anglo-Saxon, 7th-8th century AD
From Hexham, Nothumberland, England

A northern icon

This thin silver plaque was discovered in the nineteenth century in Hexham, famous for an early Anglo-Saxon church and sculpture associated with Saints Acca and Wilfrid. The plaque may have been a simple devotional image or formed part of a book-cover or reliquary. Silver sheet was incised from both sides in a linear fashion to make the portrait of a figure with a halo and hands linked over a panel with two small crosses. He is probably wearing the robes of a bishop and seems to hold a book also marked with a cross, which would be the Bible or one of the four Gospels. A diagonally hatched frame surrounds the portrait.

This appealing and expressive free-hand decoration is highly unusual in Anglo-Saxon art. It is difficult to compare with other pieces but similar depictions are found in wood on St Cuthbert's coffin of about AD 700, where sophisticated holy portraits are given this simple treatment, and there is also a Merovingian metal shrine in this style.

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More information


D.M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon art (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)

R.N. Bailey, 'The Anglo-Saxon metalwork from Hexham' in St Wilfred at Hexham (Hexham, 1974), pp. 141-67

L. Webster and J. Backhouse, The making of England: Anglo-S, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)


Height: 9.900 cm
Width: 7.400 cm
Weight: 105.000 g

Museum number

M&ME 1858,8-14,1


Gift of Revd F.G. Lee


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