This is a medieval seal matrix found by a metal-detectorist in the parish of Lockerley, Hampshire. It is made of cast copper-alloy and most likely dates to between 1470 and 1520.
Measuring a diminutive 6cm by 4cm, it is a pointed oval (or vesica) shape carved with the image of the Trinity sitting on a throne, holding a sheet as background to the crucified Christ with the dove of the Holy Spirit above his left shoulder. Beneath the Trinity, separated from it by a stone arch, is the figure of a praying cleric, probably that of a prior or abbot. Inscribed around the border of the seal are the Latin words sigillu[m] officii prioris p[ri]oretas sce trinitat[is] de Motesfont, which means ‘Seal of the Official of the Prior of the Priory of Mottisfont’.
Now a National Trust house with a garden, Mottisfont was once the site of a wealthy Augustinian priory, founded by William Briwere in 1201 and which quickly became an important pilgrimage location due to it allegedly housing a finger of John the Baptist. The priory is located only two miles from the seal’s find spot at Lockerley, which during the medieval period was the site of an annual fair and weekly market. As this seal would have been used to authenticate indulgences – written pardons for sins in return for financial donations – it could be that this seal matrix was brought to the market by a canon for the purpose of selling these.
The seal matrix has now been returned to Mottisfont, where it has recently gone on display. It is believed that this is the only seal matrix relating to the sale of indulgences to have been brought back to its original home, in this case some 500 years after it was lost.
For more information about this seal matrix, see https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/1035117 or search for HAMP-CE0EE2 on the PAS database.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of more than 1.5 million finds, visit http://www.finds.org.uk. Information for this find was provided by George Roberts, curator at the National Trust.
Text: Kathryn Krakowka / Image: National Trust Images, James Dobson