A ‘chess piece’ type stamp seal, with hexagonal-section shank and quatrefoil loop above. The quatrefoil design of the intaglio features a tressure of arches, within which a female figure holds a spiked wheel in her left hand, and a robed figure kneels praying at her side. To the border there is Lombardic script legend – ‘CATINA:VIRGO:DIVINA:CLEMENT[IS]S[I]MA’ (Catherine The Most Merciful Divine Virgin). The seal is accompanied by an impression and the collector’s relevant data cards.
Date: Circa 14th Century AD Provenance: An important London collection of ecclesiastical seals, acquired since the 1970s; found in Thaxted, Essex, UK. Condition: Excellent condition.
During the medieval period, seals were widely used in trading to ensure the authenticity and security of a document or letter. Bronze seals were a possession of the wealthy, 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.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria was said to have been martyred under the Roman emperor Maxentius at Alexandria in the early fourth century AD. Her assumed relics have been kept at the Monastery of Mount Sinai since at least the tenth century AD, and she is traditionally depicted with the spiked wheel of her martyrdom. Saint Catherine was venerated and popular in the Medieval period, with her commemoration day celebrated on 25th November.
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