Conventual seals

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Centre for Metropolitan History

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Author

E.A. Webb

Year published

1921

Pages

318-320

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'Conventual seals', The records of St. Bartholomew's priory [and] St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: volume 1 (1921), pp. 318-320. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51755 Date accessed: 28 August 2014.


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CHAPTER XII

POSSESSIONS OF THE MONASTERY AND ITS SEALS - THE CONVENTUAL SEALS

Before detailing the other possessions of the monastery, it would seem fitting briefly to describe the seals struck from time to time by the prior and convent, with which the acts and deeds of the convent were sealed in chapter (pl. XIII).

The seals, with the exception of Rahere's, are described in the catalogue of seals in the department of MSS. in the British Museum, and those descriptions are here followed with a few additional notes as to where the seals occur, the reference numbers from the catalogue being shown within brackets.

I. Rahere's is a circular seal measuring 2 1/10 in. in diameter. (fn. 1) It represents the south side of a church with four round-headed windows and a high-pitched tiled roof. There is an eastern chapel with a similar, though lower, roof and a cross at its eastern end. Three round towers are shown with conical roofs and projecting eaves. The centre tower is higher than the others, is surmounted by a cross, and has two small windows. The legend round the seal is imperfect, the impression being broken at the top. It runs:
… VM CONVEN. ECCLE. DI. ET S. BARTHOLOMEI DE SM.

(Sigillum conventus ecclesiae Dei et Sancti Bartholomei de Smethfelde—the seal of the convent of the church of God and of St. Bartholomew of Smithfield).

The only impression known of this seal is attached to a deed (fn. 2) in the possession of the governors of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, whereby Rahere and the convent, in the year 1137, appointed Hagno to the vicarage of St. Sepulchre's. The other impression attached to the same deed is apparently that of the seal of the hospital, which had its own separate seals.

II. [3488]. This is also a twelfth-century seal, measuring, when perfect, about 2½ in. by 2¼ in. It represents St. Bartholomew with a nimbus lifting up the right hand in benediction, with a shaft sur mounted by a cross in the left hand. The figure of the saint is shown half-length above a section, or the west front, of a church with two round-headed arches flanked by two circular towers with conical roofs and small windows; between the arches is a circular centre tower with a window in the upper story surmounted by a cross. (The towers are very similar to those in Rahere's seal No. I above.)

The impression, which is attached to a grant by Prior Peter le Duc, in 1242, is damaged in the lower part. (fn. 3) The legend runs:
✠ SIGILL. CONV … S ECC … HOLO … I DE LV[n]DON

(Sigillum conventus ecclesiae sancti Bartholomei Apostoli de Lundon). It also occurs among the charters at the hospital in 1198 and 1289. (fn. 4)

III. [3489]. This is a small circular counter-seal measuring 1¼ in. in diameter. It represents a church with a high-pitched roof surmounted by a tower with one fair-sized window and a cross at the left gable end of the roof and two narrow round-headed arches in the wall. The church is standing on a ship of antique shape with curved prows which terminate at each end of the ship, which is on the sea, in a bird's head. In the field on either side of the tower is the inscription NAVIS ECCL'IE, and on the left a wavy estoile of six points, and on the right a crescent. The legend, which is well preserved, runs:
SIGILL' PRIORIS ECCLESIE SCI BARTOLOMEI.

The impression of this seal is attached to the same deed as II above.

IV. [3492]. This is called the Common Seal of the convent and probably dates from the thirteenth or early fourteenth century. (fn. 5) On the obverse is represented St. Bartholomew seated on a carved throne (somewhat resembling the throne on the obverse of the Great Seal of Edward I); in the right hand is a book, in the left a flaying knife uplifted. In the field on the left is a crescent and on the right an estoile, each between two groups of three small spots. Around is the legend:
SIGILLVM COMMVNE PRIOR' ET CO[n]VE[n]TVS S[an]C[t]I BARTHOLOMEI LONDON'.

On the reverse of the seal is depicted a church with a central crocketed spire, a cross at each gable end, masoned walls imitating ashlar work and traceried windows. The church is standing on a ship on the sea, with a castle at each end of the ship. In the field at the sides is the inscription—NAVIS ECCL'E. The legend with beaded borders is:
CREDIMVS: ANTE: DEVM: PROVEHI: PER: BARTHOLOMEW.

(We believe that we are brought into the presence of God by the aid of St. Bartholomew.)

An impression of this seal is attached to a deed dated 25th September 16 Richard II (1392); (fn. 6) another is attached to a Harleian Charter dated in the chapter-house, 7th December, 25 Henry VIII (1533); (fn. 7) it is also an impression of this seal that is affixed to the surrender of the monastery, 25th October, 1539. (fn. 8)

V. [3495]. A seal ad causas; (fn. 9) it is a pointed oval measuring 2¾ in. by 1½ in., and is apparently of the fourteenth century. It represents St. Bartholomew standing on a corbel with a flaying knife in the right hand and a long shaft surmounted by a cross in his left hand. The impression is imperfect; all that remains of the legend is:
… ET CONV … THOL'I LOND AD CAVS …

(Sigillum Prioris et Conventus Sancti Bartholomei London ad causas).

We have met with no impression of this seal other than the cast in the British Museum. It would have been engraved to append to decisions of the prior and convent in matters of minor importance.

VI. [3496]. The seal of the Dominican, Preaching or Black Friars, set up here by Queen Mary 1555-58. (fn. 10) It is a pointed oval seal measuring 2½ in. by 15/8 in. It represents St. Bartholomew standing with nimbus; in the right hand is the knife and in the left hand a book; the figure is under a dome-shaped canopy of the style of the Renaissance supported by two pilasters. In the exergue (fn. 11) is a floral ornament. The legend, with an inner border beaded, runs:
SIGILLV: COVET: S'CTI: BARTHOLOMEI: ORDINIS: FRATRV: PREDICATORV: LODO:

(The seal of the convent of St. Bartholomew of the order of the Preaching Friars, London).

The matrix of this seal is in the possession of the rector and churchwardens of the church. (fn. 12)

Footnotes

1 Figured in Archaeologia, xix, 49.
2 Referred to above, p. 77.
3 St. Paul's Lib. 1358.
4 Moore, Hist. St. B.'s Hosp. i, 528. Good impression shown.
5 Engraved in Vet. Mon. ii, pl. 36.
6 Allen, London, iii, 645.
7 See above, p. 246.
8 See above, p. 253.
9 i.e., for ordinary business purposes.
10 See above, p. 284.
11 Small space below principal device on a coin or seal.
12 See above, p. 284.