- Museum number
Ibex horn; silver mounts. The silver band around the mouth engraved with the inscription 'GRYPHI VNGVIS DIVO CVTHBERTO DVNELMAENSI SACER' (the claw of a griffin sacred to the blessed Cuthebert of Durham).
- Production date
- 1575-1625 (mount)
Length: 711 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text taken from Jones 1990, see Bibliography
'The mythical griffin, or gryphon, had the foreparts of an eagle and the hind-parts of a lion. Rhinoceros horns, or the horns of antelopes, bulls or ibexes were preserved as its claws. This is from an ibex, an Alpine wild goat. Such 'claws' were highly prized treasures and to explain their rarity it was said that only a saint or very holy man could acquire one, and then only if he were able to cure a griffin of some owund or ailment and exact a claw as payment. It is possible that some such belief lay behind the presence of two griffins' claws and several griffins' (really ostrich) eggs in the shrine of St Cuthbert at Durham, recorded in a list drawn up in 1383. The present band around the mouth of the horn probably replaced an earlier fitting in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.'
Read, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, 1883, vol. ix, p250.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017 20 Feb-10 June, Durham, Durham Cathedral, Beasts
2012 Jan-Apr, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Fantastic Creatures.
2011 23 June-9 Oct, London, BM, 'Treasures of Heaven'
2011 13 Feb-8 May, Baltimore, Walters Museum of Art, 'Treasures of Heaven'
2010-2011 17 Oct-6 Jan, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, 'Treasures of Heaven'
1990, London, The British Museum, 'Fake: the Art of Deception'
1988 Apr 2-27 Sep, London, The Natural History Museum, 'Myths and Monsters'
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number