Table of Contents
Holy relics-Origin of early church plate-Abbeys and monasteries-Destruction of plate-Saved from the melting pot-Loving records-Discoveries of rare plate-A tribute to local societies-Disposal of church plate-Modern ecclesiastical splendour
THE term ecclesiastical plate is a somewhat generic one, embracing the vessels used in the more sacred rites of ceremonial worship and the secular vessels associated with them, and with church ornament and decoration. Loving devotees of religion, whatever its dogmas or beliefs and the manner in which the Deity has been approached, have ever lavished their wealth upon altar appointments and upon emblems of power and authority of the religion they professed. The collector of plate whose first efforts to collect or study the furnishing of the home by the silversmiths of old admires, but rarely aspires to possess what according to the views of many are properly kept for religious uses. Deeper research, however, shows that many of the cups, dishes and other objects in private houses in olden time were either identical with those then used for church purposes or they had been derived from similar sources without regard to their ultimate use. It is clear that in quite early times English churches as well as the greater ecclesiastical establishments were supplied with proper vessels for the performance of sacred rites. These original vessels-some of tin and pewter -if they can be so called, were supplemented as time went on by patrons and donors who gave handsomer chalices and patens and other pieces, and thus when the supply became more than could be commonly used the older-and in some instances the later and more valuable vessels -were secreted or stored away. It is these old vessels that occasionally come to light. Many of them were found years ago and put to secular uses by their finders and subsequent owners ; others changed hands by purchase. Thus it is that very many once ecclesiastical vessels found their way into private homes where they have knowingly or unknowingly been put to secular uses.