Chichester Cathedral is delighted to announce that it has acquired a rare and precious fragment of early medieval sacred metalwork, very kindly on loan from the parish of Coombes (near Lancing). Coombes Parish Church is a small church on the Sussex Downland that stands on the hillside above the Adur.
The fragment of metalwork or the ‘Coombes Crucifix’ was 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 a processional cross and is made out 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 deliberate 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 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 following Evensong on Thursday 26th January. The Revd Canon Stephen Ferns, the Senior Chaplain to the Bishop of Chichester and Canon Treasurer of Chichester Cathedral, gave a brief word of welcome, giving those assembled some background to the Treasury’s reception of the Crucifix, to which Robin Reeve, the Church Warden of CoombesParish Church, responded. After the piece was placed in the cabinet Canon Stephen Ferns offered a short prayer.
The Cathedral Treasury is a display collection mainly of historic church plate, the 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 of 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.
Cathedral which is open daily and entry is free.