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The Bishop’s Seal

by Bernadette Weyde

A rare 14th Century Bishop’s seal discovered in 2012 by a metal detecting enthusiast on the Isle of Man, has finally been declared Treasure Trove at an inquest in April. Treasure trove is an ancient law which allows the British Crown to claim an item of value if the owner cannot be traced.

The silver seal, which was discovered by Andy Falconer, is described by historians at Manx National Heritage as “incredibly significant”. Glasgow-born Mr Falconer who lives in from Douglas, said he made the “once in a lifetime discovery” in a field in the north of the Isle of Man.

Medieval history experts at the Manx Museum can’t be entirely sure who is depicted on the seal, but there is a figure in the praying position near the bottom point and two figures above – probably saints.

The inscription is in Latin and not all of the letters survive but it seems to read ‘Sit Prece Germani Patricius Deo Sal Ve’ which translates as ‘Let the prayers to God of Germanus and Patricius help us’. This suggests the figures could be St German and St Patrick.

The seal would have been used by a bishop to validate judgments from the Church and dates between 1315 and 1331 AD. Five different bishops held office during this period so it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which bishop had this seal.

Allison Fox, curator of archaeology at Manx National Heritage stated: ‘Seal matrices were dipped into wax and used to fasten documents. They each had their own individual design so that the writer of the document could be identified and verified. This particular seal matrix would have been used by one of the bishops of the Isle of Man to seal official documents. The inscription mentions both St German and St Patrick, so there’s a good Manx context to its history.’

(sources: BBC IOMToday; Metal Detecting Forum)

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