- Museum number
Disc of very thin sheet gold with a central hole 2mm. in diameter. The hole is punched from the side on which the decoration is concave. This is also the side on which the Chi-Rho reads correctly. The open rho has a slight tail. The omega is upside-down. There is a plain circle around the monogram, and a ring of punched dots at the edge.
Diameter: 49 millimetres
Weight: 4.50 grammes
- Curator's comments
This object is part of a hoard of silver vessels and plaques which is the earliest group of Christian liturgical silver yet found in the Roman Empire. It was discovered in a recently ploughed field at Water Newton, Cambridgeshire, the Roman town of Durobrivae, in February 1975. The hoard was much damaged by the plough. It consists of nine vessels, a number of silver votive plaques, and a gold disc. This type of plaque is well known from pagan temples bearing dedications to deities such as Mars, Minerva and Jupiter, but the examples found at Water Newton are the first to demonstrate the practice within a Christian congregation. The object bears the monogram formed of the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of Christ's name, and the symbol most commonly used by early Christians.
K.S. Painter, 'The Water Newton Silver: votive or liturgical?', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 152 (1999), pp. 1-23
The disc was clipped from a piece of sheet; the design was worked on from both sides, having been drawn in (or inscribed) using a blunt-pointed tool and outlined on the other side.
The diameters of this disc and the circular medallion on plaque 1975,1002.10 seem to correspond, as do also the diameters of the holes punched in them both.
Votive silver plaques
The silver plaques belong to the same tradition as the pagan examples from Barkway, Stony Stratford and Ashwell, shown in cases 19 and 20 (Pagan Religions). However, these inscribed examples from Water Newton are clearly Christian. Several have the chi-rho monogram and alpha and omega. In many cases individual letters are reversed or misunderstood, and we may infer that the craftsman was not familiar with the Greek alphabet. One has a longer inscription, recording that 'Amcilla has fulfilled the vow which she promised’.
It is likely that the plaques were pinned up somewhere in the church, or placed on the altar, giving thanks to God. This practice continues in many orthodox Christian countries, where icons are surrounded by metal votive plaques. However, these days they are usually made of base metal rather than of gold or silver.
P&E 1975 10-2 10-27
- On display (G49/dc18)
- Exhibition history
2018-2019 25 Aug-Jan, Peterborough, Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery, Peterborough Treasures: Coming Home
2007 2 Jun-4 Nov, Germany, Trier, Bischöfliche Dom und Diözesanmuseum, Constantine the Great
2006 31 Mar-29 Oct, York, Yorkshire Museum, Constantine
1996 30 Mar-13 Nov, Italy, Rimini, Sala dell’Arengo, Dalla Terra Alle Genti
1989 23 Jun-31 Aug, Durham, Durham Cathedral Treasury, The Anglo-Saxon Connection
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number