The British Museum and Wiltshire Museum have bought the Lacock Cup, a silver chalice made in the first half of the 15th century, for £1.3m.
Formed of nearly 1kg of silver and standing
14in (35cm) high, 'chalice-shaped' secular cups of this type were
popular for feasting in the late Middle Ages, but few have survived
changing fashion or melting down for their precious metal.
Despite its secular origins, the elegant
simplicity of the design - foregoing religious iconography in
favour of clean lines and Gothic patterning - was perfectly suited
to the post-Reformation church. It is thought that the cup was
given to the church of Saint Cyriac in Lacock, Wiltshire for use as
their communion cup in the 17th century by Sir Robert Baynard of
It remained in use for hundreds of years
until it was loaned to the British Museum by the church in
This joint acquisition will give the British
Museum greater flexibility to display the cup (which carried an
insurance valuation of £1.8m in 2009 when its sale was first
mooted), as well as allowing its regular display at the Wiltshire
Museum in Devizes.
The Lacock Parochial Church Council, who
received permission to sell the cup from a consistory court in
December, needed £350,000 to complete repairs to the roof of the
medieval church - the remainder of the proceeds to be placed in