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  • Suger’s Sherbert Holder October 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

    In previous posts Beachcombing has celebrated objects that have long and interesting histories: take, for example, the Baltic buddhas, Cellini’s canon or the Dauphin’s heart. It was with some excitement then that he just recently stumbled upon a vase that made, in the Middle Ages, its way from Moorish Spain through the hands of several royals, to St Denis and finally into the Louvre’s collection where it remains to this day.

    The cup, it is generally believed, dates back to the seventh or eighth century and early Moorish Spain. It was supposedly given to William IX of Aquitaine, by the Emir of Sargossa, though Beachcombing has found no evidence for this. Could it just be based on the fact that in 1120 William was campaigning against the heathen on the other side of the Pyrenees?

    What is certain that Eleanor of Aquitaine took it north and gave it to the dreary, saintly,  goody-two-shoes Louis VII. Louis then, in turn, gave it to Suger of St Denis, a more interesting man altogether, who turned it into a mass cup. Goodness knows what the first Muslim owner used it for – a sherbet holder, incense diffuser… Certainly the blood of Christ didn’t figure. Louis (or perhaps Suger) had the following words carved on it.

    Hoc vas sponsa dedit Anor Regi Ludvico,
    Mitodolus avo, mibi Rex sanctsque Sugerus

    This vase from Mitodolus was given to King Louis by his bride Eleanor and the King gave it to holy Suger.

    Who on earth is Mitoldolus? And, perhaps more importantly, what did feisty Eleanor think about her bridal gift being given over to the Church in this way? It may have been gifted after the wars between the King of France and the Count of Champagne for which Eleanor was in large part responsible: perhaps it was even a joint peace offering.

    In any case, it survived in St Denis’ collection until the unhappy events in France at the end of the eighteenth century. Indeed, one remarkable engraving shows it in the monastery’s treasure room in happier times. Then the French state looted Suger’s prize and put it in a museum for the newly enfranchised citizens to see.

    Beach notes that  Elizabeth Chadwick has already written a post on this object and includes an Akashi reading! Beachcombing has previously recorded his suspicion (and guilty fascination) about these kind of psychic trails through history. But if ever there was an object that it would be nice to read, it would be Eleanor’s mantelpiece fodder.

    Beachcombing is always on the look out for objects with a history: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com