4.9.09

A medieval mystery

Catherine Delors post today about the Chatelet-Les Halles drew me into a comment about the Louvre, and stired my thoughts in a different direction. In any event it reminded me of an article I read in 1984. (Yes, not much is lost in my great big head, the effort to retrieve the information is sometimes slow but eventually I get the data is retrieved.)

During an excavation in and about the area of the Louvre in 1984 a helmet was found in the well of the tower of Philippe Auguste, which had been filled in in 1528. It was broken into over one hundred and fifty pieces upon the discovery. It consists of two parts: the helmet itself, and a crown that was fixed to the lower rim above the visor.
It was identified as that of King Charles VI because of its fleur-de-lis decoration, and by comparison with the 1411 inventory of the king's armory.

...The discovery site of the helmet supports its attribution to King Charles VI, as does the description of the king's emblems and mottoes. The use of "badges" composed of a "motto" ("en bien") and a symbol (a winged stag) emerged in the West from the mid-14th century onward, together with the tradition of hereditary coats of arms (the royal emblem of the fleur-de-lis, in this instance).

The emblem or badge of Charles VI—the white winged stag—featured not only on the helmet but also on one of the two enameled bronze pennons, the second bearing a decoration of pheasant feathers. Other items were also found in the well: a fragment of a sword sheath featuring a silver plated hind, a leather strap with an engraved image of the same animal, a gilded bronze rivet decorated with a double broom pod, and a small bronze disc featuring the Hebrew letter "shîn".

This helmet—the only known example of its kind, and the sole surviving trace of the Louvre as it was at the time of Charles VI—testifies to the misfortunes and upheavals of that period...
more from the Louvre Museum description.

It is supposed that the helmet was stolen, and fearing a quick discovery, the jewels and gold were beat off of the helmet and the "disjecta membra" were unceremoniously tossed into the well. That someone could sneak into the Louvre and steal this is nothing short of remarkable.

What is also remarkable is that the restoration efforts were able to put it back together to the point where it has a shape. For some reason the plan to replace the lost metal with a base metal was rejected.

Thanks to Catherine Delors.

Dieu le Roy,
Brantigny

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