I recently came across the following article,(lightly edited here for readability) posted by the Facebook site, Medieval Histories Magazine. The discovery of this devotional panel depicting the 14th c execution of Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster is an extraordinary find, worth the read and certainly worth the visit if you are, or plan to be in London before the end of September, 2015.
In 2009, Archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology(MOLA) discovered a devotional panel, venerating Thomas, Earl of Lancaster in remarkable condition by the River Thames. The devotional Panel of Thomas of Lancaster found by MOLA on the riverside, is a 14th century lead-alloy devotional panel depicting the capture, trial and execution of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, political rebel turned martyr.
A fascinating piece of political propaganda and religious art, it’s one of the largest and finest examples of its kind. Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster (c. 1278 – 1322) was a junior member of the Plantagenet family. From his father he inherited the earldoms of Lancaster, Leicester and Ferrers earldom of Derby. By his marriage to Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln he became Earl of Lincoln and Salisbury, 11th Baron of Halton and 7th Lord of Bowland and played a significant role in the reign of Edward II, at whose coronation he served. After the disaster at Bannockburn he became ruler of England. However, the Barons rose against him and at 1321 he was defeated at Battle of Boroughbridge, and taken prisoner.
In 1322 he was tried by a tribunal, but was not allowed to speak for himself, nor was anyone allowed to defend him. In the end he was convicted of treason and executed by beheading near Pontefract. Soon after Thomas’s death, miracles were reported at his tomb at Pontefract, and he became venerated as a martyr and saint.
In 1327 the Commons petitioned Edward III to ask for his canonization and popular veneration continued until the reformation. The newly found devotional panel is cast in metal and measures approximately 13 x 9 cm. The panel includes scenes that depict a cautionary tale for ambitious politicians, and reveals that Lancaster was elevated to an almost saintly status after his death. The panel tells the story of Lancaster’s imprisonment and execution and in slightly garbled French, is read clockwise from the top left: ‘here I am taken prisoner’; ‘I am judged’; ‘I am under threat’ and lastly ‘la mort’ (death).
The Virgin Mary and Christ look down from heaven, ready to receive Lancaster’s soul. Although a rare find today, the panel would have been mass produced at the time. A small number of parallels exist but these are fragmentary or in a poorer style. Sophie Jackson, MOLA archaeologist, said: “It’s thanks to the wet ground of the Thames waterfront that this beautiful metal object survived in such remarkable condition. It has an intriguing story and reveals a great deal about the political climate of the day.”
The panel is on display at the Museum of London until
September 28, 2015.
DEVOTIONAL PANEL DEPICTING 14TH C EXECUTION OF THOMAS, EARL OF LANCASTER
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