Jorvik: Treasures & Belief to open on 1 August 2016
For generations, the city’s most precious Christian ceremonial items have been stored there, but from 1 August 2016, the Treasury in York Minster’s Undercroft will be home to a remarkable collection of Viking treasures with the opening of Jorvik: Treasures & Belief – the third touring exhibition from JORVIK Viking Centre.
The new exhibition, curated by teams from York Archaeological Trust and York Minster’s Collections team, brings together a host of artefacts that illustrate the transition from the old Norse religions to Christianity, with a melding of the two faiths evidenced in precious items like coins – the preferred means of currency in Christian societies compared to the traditional ingots, bars and hack-silver of the Scandinavian countries.
“York Minster already plays host to two of the finest example of early medieval Christian art – the Horn of Ulph and the York Gospels – but the items found in the Coppergate excavations show how religion was experienced by the people of Jorvik,” comments director of attractions for the JORVIK Group, Sarah Maltby. “This is the first time that visitors will be able to see these two great Christian treasures alongside the coin die and coins that would normally form part of the JORVIK Viking Centre displays. These help us tell the story of a society experiencing a theological change, which took elements from both Norse and Christian beliefs – silver pennies issued in the name of St Peter featuring a Viking sword or Thor’s hammer, for example.”
The theme of ‘treasures’ is expanded with displays of some of the personal items found during the Coppergate dig that would have been treasured by the people of Viking-age York. Indeed, one of the most exciting artefacts is a highly-decorated barrel padlock that would not have been used to protect valuables, but was a prized possession in its own right. Another locking mechanism – a stapled hasp – would have been used to secure a chest, and one of the examples on display features animal heads – very similar to those found on cope chests within York Minster’s own collection. This kind of lock may have been used to safeguard some other ‘treasures’ on display, from pan pipes to Viking jewellery, including brooches and a dragonese pin – a bone pin with an exquisitely crafted dragon’s head design that would have been worn as a sign of status and wealth by its original owner.
One display which has been specially commissioned for this exhibition – and which will become a focal point within JORVIK Viking Centre itself when it re-opens next Spring – is a replica of the Middleton Cross, an ancient carved stone cross which sits in St Andrew’s Church in Middleton, Ryedale. Carved by masons in York Minster’s stone yard to recreate what the Middleton Cross would have looked like when it was first crafted, the cross shows a Viking warrior in full armour alongside a monstrous beast. The cross shape reflects Christian iconography, and this was probably commissioned by wealthy locals to commemorate one of their dead – a unique item that illustrates Christian and Norse religions co-existing during the Viking period.
“The original cross is used as an illustration of Viking-age art in historic literature around the world, and the masons have done a remarkable job of re-imagining how the stone would have looked before time took its toll. I am sure that visitors to the York Minster exhibition will appreciate this stunning piece of work – and that it will go on to be viewed by many millions of visitors to JORVIK Viking Centre when we reopen next year,” adds Sarah.
Jorvik: Treasures & Belief runs from Monday 1 August until early 2017, when the artefacts will be returned to the new galleries in JORVIK Viking Centre. Entry to the exhibition is included within York Minster’s standard admission price, which is £10 for adults, £9 for seniors and students and free for accompanied children, with each ticket valid for 12 months form the date of first admission.
Visitors enjoying exploring York’s Viking heritage can also enjoy the two other exhibitions that form part of the JORVIK on Tour season, including Jorvik: Home & Abroad at York St. Mary’s in Coppergate, next to JORVIK Viking Centre, and a free exhibition, Jorvik: Life & Death in the Keregan Room at the newly-refurbished York Theatre Royal.
“People come to York to find out about the Vikings, and even though JORVIK Viking Centre itself remains closed whilst we recover from last December’s flooding, we were delighted that partners at York Minster, York Theatre Royal and York Museums Trust were happy to host these three touring exhibitions which showcase three different aspects of York’s Norse heritage,” adds Sarah. “Our fundraising, rebuilding and re-imagining of the JORVIK Viking Centre continues down in Coppergate, and it will be wonderful to welcome back all of the items that we’ve been sharing to once again be York’s ultimate Viking experience.
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