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Home > Auctions > 4th October 2012 > Medieval Bronze Pope Urban V Papal Office Seal Matrix Attributable to Cardinal Adam Easton

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LOT 1286

Sold for (Inc. bp): £2,808

1362-1370 AD
2 1/2" (31 grams, 65 mm).

An important vesica seal matrix with complex design comprising a central agnus dei (Lamb of God) and Holy Grail within a circular border; male heads above and below, the upper tonsured and probably a portrait of Urban; the lower of a bearded saint, likely to be St Peter and with foliage within the spandrels; the circular panel with Gothic legend 'agnus:dei:qvitollis peccati mundi' (Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world) and inside 'urbanis:quintus' (Urban the Fifth) and to the outer band 'sancta:aualtane:martris. [foliage] et: cap:ila:beate:marie:de:scala:celi:' (Holy Mary, blessed, hallowed in heaven with the martyrs); the reverse with solder showing that a long rib and suspension was originally fitted.

Ex Winterton collection, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, UK; recorded by Doncaster Museum and the British Museum (reference number P&E /65/03/JPR, 9th January 2004) and seen by the British Library; found near Gainsborough, Nottinghamshire, UK, 2003.

Cardinal Adam Easton (born uncertain, died Rome, 1397/8, of 'old age') was almost certainly of peasant birth from Easton, Norfolk and was taken in and educated by the church; his potential was recognised and he later joined the Benedictine monastery attached to Norwich Cathedral. He rose in the church becoming the Benedictine proctor at Avignon, taking the position of his friend Thomas Brynton and to become a cardinal and the most important cleric in the church, second only to Pope Urban V (himself a former Benedictine). He is recorded as having travelled between the papal palace at Avignon and England, delivering a letter from Urban to Edward III telling the English King to restrain the activities of his men at arms in Italy and it is likely that he would have been involved in Urban's quarrel with Edward III of England over the payment of the annual tribute (dating back to King John) which occasioned the antipapal polemics of John Wyclif. He is also known to have travelled in England with his association with Simon Langham. His tomb, which once bore the inscription "Skilled in all things, renowned father Adam. The great theologian, who was cardinal of England, which was his fatherland, the title of St Cecilia was given to him. He died and ascended to heaven in the year 1397, in the month of September" can still be found in the Church of St Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome.

Pope Urban V (born 1310, died 19 December 1370), born William de Grimoard, reigned as Pope from 1362 to 1370. In September 1362, Abbot William arrived in Avignon, returning from Naples, where he had been sent by Pope Innocent IV as papal legate, only to learn that the pope had died. At that time, a conclave was already being held to elect a successor to the recently-deceased pope. In a surprise move, on the 28th of that month he himself was elected Pope. He then took the name of Urban, the fifth pope with that name to rule the Church. He was not even a bishop at the time of his election, and had to be consecrated as one before his coronation. This was done on 6th November by Cardinal Andouin Aubert, the nephew of his predecessor. He served as the sixth pope in the Avignon Papacy. Urban boarded a ship at Corneto heading for France on 5th September 1370, Avignon on the 24th of the same month. A few days later he fell severely ill. Feeling his death approaching, he asked that he might be moved from the Papal Palace to the nearby residence of his brother, Angel, whom he had made a cardinal, that he might be close to those he loved. He died there on 19 December 1370.

The seal matrix can be firmly dated to the papacy of Urban V (1362-1370 AD) as it bears his name. It is the seal of a papal office holder; a man of high position close to the Pope. It is likely to be the seal used by Cardinal Adam Easton, lost in England during his travels between Avignon and the English court and church; most probably as a result of the reverse rib, which would have provided a suspension loop by which it could be worn or secured, becoming accidentally detached.