Today marks St George’s Day where we celebrate the legend and gallant knight who died on this day in around AD 303. Celebrating St George’s day is traditionally a Christian celebration as it is thought that St George slayed a dragon and saved a princess. The legend has it that St George offered to kill the dragon who was terrorising a village if they converted to Christianity. Sounds like a fairy tale doesn’t it?
During the Middle Ages, people believed that St George was one of a group of Saints who could help known as the Fourteen Holy Helpers and from around 1100, he was also sought to protect the English Army. Including in this legend is a story from the First World war that a ghostly apparition of St George was said to have aided British troops during their retreat from Mons and the naval Commander of Zeebrugge Raid cited St George as inspiration.
We get to see some great objects from the Middle Ages (or Medieval Times) come through our salerooms and most recently we have a fantastic collection of Pilgrim’s Badges. What makes these badges so interesting is that it is social history meets religion or folklore meets history. Most Pilgrim badges usually come with a very interesting story attached to them.
One of the more interesting Pilgrims Badge that forms part of this collection depicts a falcon and a falconer’s glove. This is an example of a 14th Century Medieval Pilgrims/Secular badge and it still has traces of the original gilding on it and with an auction estimate of £100 – £150, its quite a lovely example and it is believed that this badge represents a symbol for celebrating chivalric feats or outdoor pursuits.
It is wonderful to have such an extensive collection of badges and another one to mention from this collection is a 15th Century badge, which depicts a scabbard for a miniature sword. This badge represents the scabbard from the sword from which Thomas Becket was slain. Thomas Becket was also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury and he was acclaimed as a martyr by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion as he engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England over the rights and privileges of the church and was murdered by followers of the King. This particular badge has an auction estimate of £120 – £180 which isn’t bad for something that is only 75mm long!
Other Medieval objects that we have seen in our auctions was a British Medieval carved stone head of the Green Man (The Green man is a legend that is a symbol of rebirth) and was dated from the 15th Century. This odd looking chap had a circular head with wide eyes and nose with oak leaves protruding from the mouth and curling around the head with a block to the back and sold for an impressive £3,400 (including buyers premium) which for a piece like this is great.
As St George was regarded as somewhat of a hero and symbolised courage and strength he was portrayed displaying the red cross of the crusader on a number of objects. One such object it is very common to see St George on is gold sovereigns. This came about as St George striked a chord with King George IV and when the King wanted to introduce a new coin he picked St George as the coin’s subject. This became the ‘norm’ when it came to sovereigns and became very popular with him on horseback whilst fighting the dragon appearing on numerous gold coins.
Further Medieval objects we see in our auctions are Medieval tiles. These fascinating pieces of history are decorative and also colourful for the time and we have a particular selection of tiles coming up in The Collector auction which are very good examples as they are very good condition considering their age. One group of tiles worthy of a mention includes a small tile with a central round slip and eye and another tile with a stylised clover design , there are also examples of a geometric design within this grouping. They really are a lovely selection and when I see objects like this I instantly think about who might have walked upon them, where did they lay, although some may think they are just tiles, I look at them and see so much history amongst them all.
As I always say, in my job we get to see and touch so many interesting objects which to be honest I feel so privileged to be able to do. To be able to research objects from the Medieval times is just so exciting for us as valuers. To think who has been involved in their creation, who has touched them, what have they seen, where have they been it just adds to the mysteriousness of the object and our excitement.
If these Medieval objects have interested you, you can come and view some of these in The Collector auction which takes place in May, you could just put your hands on a piece of history!
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