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The Coombes Crucifix (posted 7 February 2017)

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The 'Coombes Crucifix': A new acquisition for the Cathedral's Treasury

Coombes Crucifix
Coombes Crucifix

Chichester Cathedral is delighted to announce that it has just acquired a rare and precious fragment of early medieval sacred metalwork, on loan from Coombes Parish Church, a small church on the Sussex Downland that stands on the hillside above the Adur. This unique and historic item is now on display in the Cathedral's Treasury with free entry.

The fragment of metalwork, or the 'Coombes Crucifix', was first found in the churchyard in 1877. It is less than 10cm in height and represents a crowned figure of Christ. It was probably made as an attachment to an altar or processional cross, and is made of copper, which has been hammered and engraved.

The Crucifix is thought to be of Limoges 13th century workmanship and amazingly it retains fragments of the original gilding and enamelling. Limoges was the centre of the metalworking and enamelling industry in medieval Europe. There are occasional finds of Limoges enamel fragments in England, but a piece of this quality, with a local church link, is a rarity. The damage to the figure suggests that it has suffered some violence, which may have been wilful and could be linked to the Reformation.

The Coombes Crucifix has an interesting and unusual history. After it was found in the churchyard in 1877, it was exhibited for many years in the church before being stolen in 2012. Four years later it came to the notice of the West Mercia Police and thankfully was returned to the parish. They, being anxious that it should be on public display in secure conditions, kindly offered it on loan to the Cathedral. The presentation took place at a small ceremony in the Cathedral Treasury after Evensong.

The Cathedral Treasury is a display collection mainly of historic church plate (these are special vessels used in the principal service of the Christian Church - the Mass, the Eucharist, the Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper). The vessels in the collection are mostly silver, with a few pewter, and are pieces from the Cathedral and those on long term loan from over ninety parishes across the Diocese of Chichester. The Cathedral Treasury is located within the Cathedral which is open daily and entry is free.

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