The priory of Christchurch: Seals

Pages 461-463

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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As TO the seals used at different times by this priory, they had three, the latter being still larger than the former ones; the first of them, being two inches diameter, is much of the same size and character with that leaden seal of St. Augustine's bull or charter, set out by Sir Henry Spelman, in his Councils, p. 122. It has been said, that there was another seal, still more antient than these, the words on which, in allusion to the dedication of the church to the Holy Trinity, were DEUS PATER, DEUS FILIUS, DEUS SPIRITUS SANCTUS; of this, however, Mr. Somner, p. 87, makes some doubt, as well because, though conversant in the church records, he never at that time had met with any such seal; and because, the seal which was in use not long after the conquest, namely, both in the time of archbishop Anselm (Lanfranc's immediate successor) and of Ernulph the prior, that is about the latter end of the 11th century, which he had often seen, had no other inscription, but the following on it, nor would the proportion of the seal admit of a larger. This, therefore, he judges to have been the first seal of the church. This inscription is, SIGILLUM: ECCLESIE: CHRISTI:— It has no counterseal.

This seal continued in use till the new dedication of the church about the year 1130, when it was again renewed; this new seal being three inches and a quarter diameter, has in the front part the representation of the church, with this inscription round it: SIGILLUM: ECCLIE: XPI CANTUAEIE: PRIME SEDIS BRITANNIE: and on the other side, the figure of our Saviour, and round it, EGO SUM VIE VERITAS ET VITA. This seal, seemingly the second seal of the priory, continued in use till archbishop Becket's martyrdom, and then was changed again to another, being three inches and three-quarters diameter; it had on one side that martyrdom represented, with these verses round the rim of it: EST: HUIC: VITA: MORI: PRO: QUA: DUM: VIXIT: AMORI.—MOR SERAT ET MEMORI PER MORTEM VIVIT HONORI; which, however, appears to be the counterseal; and on the upper side, the representation of the church; under the church door is the word METROPOLIS; over the middle door, under the bust in the pediment is . . . .r. DOMVS. I. X. P. on the convent wall surrounding MVRI. METREPOL. ISTI X.; the inscription being SIGILLUM: ECCLESIE: XRISTI: CANTURIE: PRIME: SEDIS BRITANNIE. This seal was not altered afterwards, but continued in use during the existence of the priory.

At the time of the new foundation of the church afterwards, by king Henry VIII. the common seal was again changed and new made; and as St. Thomas was no longer reputed a saint, and his death no longer accounted a martyrdom, so the representation of it, on the seal of this church, was no longer continued; and on the new seal of it, instead of the murder of Becket, it has on the front a representation of the church, having three towers, with spires, a figure standing in the porch, two angels above incensing, and two stars, and this inscription: SIGIL*CATHED* ET* METROP*XI*CANT*NOVITER*ERECTE*P* REGE*HEN. VIII. On the counterseal the church, in the door a crucifix, two angels over the church, and this inscription: EGO+SUM+VIA+VERITAS+ET+VITA+ANNO+INCARNATI+CHRISTI+1540; being the church's last seal, and made use of at this time.

Several of the above seals are appendant to writings among the Chartæ Antiquæ, in the treasury room of the dean and chapter, as are three different seals of the chapter of the priory, ad causas.

The first of these, of the date 1293, has on the front a representation of the church and Becket's murder, knights at the sides, approaching him; over Becket's head, God the Father; on the counter seal, the Salu tation; under, the prior praying; diameter three inches. The inscription, NUNCIAT HIC AVE, &c.

The second, anno 1359, the same front, but a different counterseal, being three busts full faced, in three circles, placed triangular; diameter two and a half.

The third, anno 1461, the same front, with this inscription, SIGILLVM + ECCLESIE XRISTI + CANTUARIE + AD + CAUSAS: +. On the counterseal three heads, as above, representing the Trinity, and this inscription, DEUS PATER. DEUS FILIUS DEUS S. PS SANCTUS. Diameter three and a quarter.