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Guild chain of a Sint-Jorisgilde

Royal necklace

Guild chain of a Sint-Jorisgilde (Guild of Saint George)
Artisan unknown
Germany (Westfalen) or Northern Netherlands, 15th century
Embossed and gilded silver and gold
MAS, AV.4699
Bought from the Osterrieth family, 1930

The MAS keeps a great many important pieces of precious metalwork. These also include guild silver, like this necklace, a guild chain. It comes from a German or Northern Netherlands marksman's guild, with Saint George as the patron saint.

A Saint George marksman's guild was an armed citizens' guard that helped ensure safety in a town or municipality. Alongside that, these guilds were also social clubs that practised shooting with a crossbow. They existed from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution. There was a very old Saint George's marksman's guild in Antwerp too, as well as five other armed guilds.

The meetings of a marksman's guild involved a great deal of ostentation. Take this large ceremonial necklace: it has twenty links and a medallion below it, a breastplate, a crowned bird and little shields. During festivities, the ‘king of the guild’ wore such a chain around his neck. You were made king if you had won the popinjay shooting competition. Then, you had to add a silver shield to the chain at your own expense. Shooting the main bird three times, earned the title of emperor.

Each link of the chain has a Burgundian fire striker: two crossed arrows framed by branches and thistle leaves.

A medallion of openworked leaves, with a flower rosette in the middle and a depiction of Saint Christopher above, hangs on the chain.

A hollow, curved breastplate hangs below the medallion, containing two little figures on a base: Saint George killing the dragon, and a crowned figure in a long robe. Between the two bases is a small enamelled Gothic shield with a lion.

Below that hangs a crowned bird (popinjay) with its wings spread. It is standing on a branch.

Attached to the bird are: a blank shield, a shield with a crest that consists of two battlements, a longbow and portfire rifle in miniature and a medallion with a sawn and chiselled Saint George fighting the dragon on horseback. The rear contains the inscription PS in a square shield.

From: Reports of sessions of the Administrative Commission of the Museum of Antiquities – 1910-1938

The report shows that a special session of the Museum commission took place on 12 December 1930 as to the purchase of this object from the Osterrieth family. Purchase amount: 75,000 franks (today around 1,750 euros). The purchase was also announced in the printed press.

See also

Masterpieces from the Governement of Flanders

Flanders possesses a magnificent collection of movable cultural heritage. With the 'Masterpieces Decree', the Flemish government wants to protect these unique cultural objects. Based on the decree, a list of rare and indispensable objects was compiled. Some of them are part of the MAS collection.

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