May 24, 2010

ORIGINAL mid 15th century Money Box

Preserved with the Extremely Rare Medieval Wrought Iron Chain Still Intact

The Box:

[Medieval Money Box][Alms Box] Wood (Oak) and Iron, circa 1450, Netherlands. 25 cm. tall with an additional 51 cm. iron chain attached with fittings. Some minor wood loss, but well preserved with the original chain still intact (a great rarity). The box is locked with the key presumably rattling inside.

Such money or alms boxes often collected funds for local hospitals as well as churches, in keeping with a Christian’s religious duty to donate money for the poor. Boxes were opened about once a month with the contents counted and handed over to a hospital secretary or priest.

At the St. Nicholas Hospital in Kent is preserved as an example, the famous “Erasmus money or alms box”. “When Erasmus visited the hospital in the company of Dean Colet, one of the brethren presented a holy relic, a portion of Becket’s shoe, for the travellers to kiss before being sprinkled with holy water. The dean declined the proffered favour with such an outburst of wrathful rhetoric that the courteous Erasmus must needs made amends by dropping a goodly donation into the box, at that time fastened by a chain, of which a few links remain, to a tree near the hospital gate, or at the end of a long pole, so that the passer-by might give his donation at a safe distance from the infected lepers.” [The box may be seen here]

Incidentally, Erasmus is also generally credited with coining the English phrase “Pandora’s box”, arising through an error in his translation of Pandora by Hesiod in which he confused “pithos”, storage jar, with “pyxis”, box. It is a befitting word of playful caution, when opening the example for sale here, which has been locked with the key inside.

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posted in: medieval and renaissance objects, Uncategorized