Treasure of Guarrazar

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Votive crowns and crosses, from a 19th-century lithograph.
Votive crown of the Visigoth King Reccesuinth, made of gold and precious stones in the 2nd half of the 7th century.
Detail of the votive crown of Reccesuinth, hanging in Madrid. The hanging letters spell [R]ECCESVINTUS REX OFFERET [King R. offers this].[1]
Location of Guadamur.

Coordinates: 39°48′41″N 4°8′57″W / 39.81139°N 4.14917°W / 39.81139; -4.14917

The Treasure of Guarrazar is an archeological find composed of twenty-six votive crowns and gold crosses that had originally been offered to the Roman Catholic Church by the Kings of the Visigoths in the seventh century in Hispania, as a gesture of the orthodoxy of their faith and their submission to the ecclesiastical hierarchy.[2] The most valuable of all is the votive crown of king Reccesuinth with its blue sapphires from Sri Lanka and pendilia. Though the treasure is now divided and much has disappeared, it represents the best surviving group of Early Medieval Christian votive offerings.

The treasure, which represents the high point of Visigothic goldsmith's work,[3] was dug between 1858 and 1861 in an orchard called Guarrazar, in Guadamur, very close to Toledo, Spain. The treasure was divided, with some objects going to the Musée de Cluny in Paris[4] and the rest to the armouries of the Palacio Real in Madrid (today in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain). Subsequently most of the Treasure of Guarrazar was stolen and has disappeared.

Some comparable Visigothic filigree gold was found in 1926 at Torredonjimeno in the province of Jaén, consisting of fragments of votive crowns and crosses.[5]

Description[edit]

The jewellery found at Guarrazar is part of a continuous tradition of Iberian metalworking that goes back to prehistoric times. These Visigothic works were influenced heavily by the Byzantines, but the techniques of gem encrustation found at Guarrazar were practised throughout the Germanic world and the style of the lettering was Germanic too. The crowns, however, were purely Byzantine in form and never meant to be worn. They were gifts to the church, to be hung above the altar.

The most valuable remaining pieces of the find are the two royal votive crowns: one of King Reccesuinth and one of King Suinthila. Both are made of gold, encrusted with sapphires, pearls, and other precious stones. Suinthila's was stolen in 1921 and never recovered. There are several other small crowns and many votive crosses. There were belts in the original find as well, but these have since vanished.

These findings, together with other of some neighbors and with the archaeological excavation of the Ministry of Public Works and the Royal Academy of History (April 1859), formed a group consisting of:

  • Royal Palace of Madrid: a crown and a gold cross and a stone engraved with the Annunciation. A crown, and other fragments of a tiller with a crystal ball were stolen from the Royal Palace of Madrid in 1921 and its whereabouts are still unknown.

There were also many fragments of sculptures and the remains of a building, perhaps a Roman sanctuary or place of purification. After its dedication to Christian worship as a church or oratory, it housed a number of graves. A skeleton lying on a bed of lime and sand was found in the best preserved grave. Its well-preserved stone slate has a Latin inscription that mentions a priest named Crispín, dating from 693 (51st year of the reign of Égica, year of the Sixteenth Council of Toledo). This slate is now in the National Archeological Museum of Spain in Madrid. The inscription on the Sónnica cross, a piece preserved in Paris, gives an indication about the name of this church.

INDNI

NOM
INE
OFFERET SONNICA
ACTE
MA
RIE
INS
ORBA

CES

According to some hypothesis, the monastery of Sancta Maria in Sorbaces of Guarrazar served as a hideout for the real treasure of the court, Toledo churches and monasteries to prevent their capture by the Muslims' invasion of Spain.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The first R is held at the Musée de Cluny, Paris.
  2. ^ Musée National du Moyen Âge, Hôtel de Cluny: the Musée de Cluny conserves one of the votive crowns.
  3. ^ M.F. Guerra, T. Galligaro, A. Perea, "The treasure of Guarrazar : Tracing the gold supplies in the Visigothic Iberian peninsula", Archeometry 49.1 (2007) pp. 53-74.
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911, s.v. "Crown"
  5. ^ Described and compared in Alicia Perea, "Visigothic filigree in the Guarrazar (Toledo) and Torredonjimeno (Jaén) treasures," Historic Metallurgy 40.1 (2006).

References[edit]

External links[edit]