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Wilton Cross

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1859,0512.1

  • Title (object)

    • Wilton Cross
  • Description

    Gold, garnet-inlaid pendant cross with expanded equal arms springing from a central roundel set with a lightweight solidus of Heraclius (613-32). The coin is set in a filigree collar and depicts Heraclius and Heraclius Constantine on the obverse and a cross on steps on the reverse. Each of the three flaring arms of the cross is filled with a finely executed cloisonné design based on a single multi-stepped cell containing a pair of mushroom-shaped cells lying head-to-head, separated by a pair of stepped cells with concave sides. The device may be read as a cross, establishing within the overall cruciform design a cryptic cross motif in each arm. The fourth arm is straight-sided and filled with a double herringbone motif executed in small garnets. Its upper edge is shaped to accommodate a heavy biconical loop decorated with panels of plaited gold wire and worn beaded filigree. The base of each arm rests against the outer wall of a cloisonné roundel enclosing the solidus and filled with small square and rectangular garnets set alternately. All the garnets are backed with gold foil impressed with a fine waffle pattern. The back-plate, made of fine sheet-gold, is featureless and is confined to the cloisonné frame so that the face of the solidus can be seen.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 7thC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 4.7 centimetres
    • Width: 4.5 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Webster & Backhouse 1991
    The solidus can be dated to 613-30 and was struck with the reverse die upside-down in relation to the obverse.
    The cross on the solidus was evidently a critical element in the overall design of the pendant, yet it appears upside down. This may be because the jeweller respected the orientation of the obverse even though it is not visible when the cross is worn, or because the cross was oriented to stand upright to the wearer's downward glance.
    The Wilton Cross belongs within a small group of exceptional seventh-century jewellery which includes the Ixworth cross (The Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, inv. no. 1909.453), and is ascribed to an East Anglian workshop, active in the first half of the seventh century. This produced pieces of jewellery characterised by all-over cloisonné work and includes those found in the Sutton Hoo ship-burial and the adapted mount from Tongres, Belgium. The Wilton Cross shares the high quality of the Sutton Hoo jewellery as well as specific cell types and combinations and small design details, for example the double herringbone filling the suspension-loop arm, that are a familiar part of the repertoire of the Sutton Hoo workshop. A stray find, the Wilton Cross may date from the third decade of the seventh century when Christianity was making substantial impact on the elite families of the East Anglian kingdom.

    Select bibliography: Kendrick, T.D. 1937, St Cuthbert’s pectoral cross and the Wilton and Ixworth Cross, ‘The Antiquaries Journal’ XVII, 283-93; Bruce-Mitford, R.L.S. 1974, ‘Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology’, London, 28-33.

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  • Bibliography

    • Webster & Backhouse 1991 12 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1986a 229 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1976 364 bibliographic details
    • Marzinzik 2013 53 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G41/dc6

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:
    1989 23 Jun-31 Aug, Durham Cathedral, Anglo Saxon Connections
    2007-2008 7 Feb-15 Jan, Birmingham, Barber Institute of Fine Art, 'Encounters: Travel and Money in the Byzantine World'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1859

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1859,0512.1

COMPASS Title: The Wilton Cross

COMPASS Title: The Wilton Cross

Image description

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Object reference number: MCS16753

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