Medieval Person Bronze Seal with ‘Pelican in her Piety’


An extremely fine vesica-shaped Medieval personal bronze seal matrix. The piece features a flat reverse with a central rib and a semi-circular loop. The piece is finely engraved with the depiction of a female pelican pecking at her breasts to feed her chicks in the nest below. A clear Latin inscription, written in Lombardic, runs around the border and reads S’ANABILIE BRATWAIT. A seal fetauring the exact same iconography is currently on display online at the British Museum.

Date: Circa 12th-14th Century AD
Provenance: The artefact has been excavated in Nottinghamshire, UK, requiring an export licence for international purchase. The application will be arranged by the seller, at no additional charges for the buyer. The item can only be shipped after the licence has been obtained, this may take up to six weeks.
Condition: Fine, with a small hole through in the middle.


SKU: FP-208 Category: Tags: , ,

During the Medieval period, seals were widely used in trading to ensure the authenticity and security of a document or letter. Bronze and copper seals were a possession of the wealthy or of those in authority, since they cost more to produce than lead seals, and had a longer life span on account of the metal’s hardness. The social status of the owner was reflected in the size of the seal, with the combination of motif and text providing further insight into the owner’s identity, such as their place in a family. An intaglio made in relief is the most traditional form of dry seal used to make the impression on the paper. The common design of a seal comprises a graphic emblem in the middle surrounded by a text, which is called the legend, around the perimeter.

The engraved image depicts a female pelican, shown in the popular Christian motif known as ‘a pelican in her piety’. Such decorative iconography finds its origin in the Bible and was then developed by Christian commentators. In nature, female pelicans keep the food for their young to macerate in the membranous sac that hangs from the lower jaw, and then nourish them by pressing their beak against their chest to let the food out. To the naked eye this was perceived as the pelican piercing her breasts in order to draw blood which would have fed her chicks. This image became the symbol of Christ who sheds blood for the redemption of men. The inscription, reading S’ANABILIE, a girl’s name, popular from the mid 12th  century onwards, and BRATWAIT, a habitational name from any of the places in northern England named Braithwaite, from the Old Norse breior ‘broad’ + pveit ‘clearing’.

Weight 9.7 g
Dimensions H 4 cm



Christian Ideology

Reference: For a similar item, The British Museum, item 1872,0603.48.