Dorestad brooch

Dorestad brooch (loaned from provence of Zuid-Holland)Dorestad brooch (loaned from provence of Zuid-Holland)

On July 18, 1969, during archaeological research in the Dutch town of Wijk bij Duurstede, this gorgeous gilded brooch was found at the bottom of a well. This piece of jewelry ended up there around 850, in the declining years of Dorestad, at a time when the town was plagued repeatedly by Viking raids. A comparison with other Carolingian metalwork shows that the brooch must have been made around 800, probably in a Swiss or Burgundian workshop. 

Beautiful materials

The brooch is richly decorated. A striking feature is the cloisonné work: little gold cells have been inlaid with flat pieces of a coloured material, in most cases polished glass. A highly stylized tree with leaves and fruit has been done in red, white, green and blue glass and enamel. In the middle we find a sizeable, polished almandine in a gold fitting. Along the edge there are four smaller almandines.

Symbolism

The edge is decorated with pearls, four fairly large ones and sixteen smaller ones, and with open-work stylized bird heads. Various Christian symbols are to be distinguished in the decoration, like two intersecting crosses and stylized fruit-laden trees, possibly trees of life. Dorestad played an important part in the dissemination of Christianity. Probably, this brooch was worn by someone belonging to Dorestad's elite. But it is also possible that is was part of a church treasure.

Object: Dorestad brooch
Dating from: 775-800
Material: Metal, gold, enamel, glass, almandine, pearl.
Size: 8,5 cm
Origin: Holland, Utrecht; Wijk bij Duurstede
Collection: Middle Ages
Code: f 1978/1.1