The Alfred Jewel
The Alfred Jewel showing the begining of the text:
AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN
The Alfred Jewel was discovered in North Petherton, Somerset in 1693. It is a piece of Anglo-Saxon work made of enamel and quartz enclosed in gold. The object has been dated to the late ninth-century, in the reign of Alfred the Great and is inscribed “AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWERCAN” (Alfred ordered me to be made).
The object is 6.4 cm long and is made of filigreed gold, enclosing a highly polished tear-shaped piece of clear quartz rock crystal. This covers a cloisonné enamel plaque, with an image of a man with prominent eyes, who is holding a V-shaped rod with flower-like terminals. At the base is an animal head terminal which has as its snout a hollow socket showing that it was intended to hold a thin rod or stick.
The figure has been compared to the central figure of the Fuller Brooch, a late ninth-cenrury silver disc brooch that depicts the five senses, with the sense of sight in the centre of the brooch.
The Alfred Jewel is believed to be an æstel – a pointer used for reading. Other Anglo-Saxon examples are known, such as the Bowleaze Cove Jewel and the Minster Lovell Jewel shown below.
The interpretation of the Alfred Jewel as an æstel is of great interest. In the preface to Alfred’s translation of Pope Gregory the Great’s book Pastoral Care, he wrote:
And I will send a copy to every bishop’s see in my kingdom, and in each book there is an aestel of 50 mancusses and I command, in God’s name, that no man take the staff from the book, nor the book from the church
The mancus was a gold coin, with a weight of gold of 4.25 grams equivalent to the Islamic dinar.
The Fuller Brooch
You can find out more about the Fuller Brooch here…