Late Medieval Seal Matrix

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When someone dies their ID card and on-line banking code-dongle are destroyed to prevent identity theft. Their signature dies with them, so that’s not a problem. In the past, people with a bit of money and influence had seal matrices filling the function of all these things. They “signed” documents by affixing wax seals to them, stamped with their unique design. And when the owner of a seal died, the matrix was generally destroyed and then molten for scrap or buried with him.

For this reason, Medieval seal matrices are rare finds, and when they do turn up they tend to be in pieces. But recently, a 15th or early-16th century matrix was found at a farmstead near Linköping in Östergötland, Sweden — in pristine shape, hardly even corroded. It’s now in the County Museum where I saw it back in the spring.

The image on the seal shows a knight in armour with a heavy sword over his shoulder and something round in front that I can’t identify. (Sorry about the crappy photograph.) So far my enquiries into who the owner of the seal may have been, and whether any documents sealed with it survive, have been unsuccessful. But we’re clearly dealing with someone in the nobility.

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Comments

  1. #1 Pierre
    August 22, 2007

    Have any idea as to what the text on the matrice says?

  2. #2 Tobias
    August 23, 2007

    Swedish coins during the late medieval period frequently depicted the regent holding a sword and a globus cruciger (rikspple in Swedish), i.e. an orb with a cross. This image actually is quite similar to that on the mark coins minted by Gustav Vasa in Svartsj. Link: http://www.numismatik.se/images/galleri_vasa/1mark1545.jpg
    It would be extremely interesting to find out what the legend reads…
    Please keep us posted!

  3. #3 Martin R
    August 23, 2007

    Sorry, I can’t tell you what the characters say. I only handled the thing for a few minutes, and as you can see I was unable to shoot a decent photograph. Besides, the Gothic lettering is hard for me to read even when its not blurry and mirrored.

  4. #4 Pierre
    August 23, 2007

    Maybe Tobias is on the right track? The picture does remind me also of medieval coins. Swedish late medieval coins never showed the ruler but a picture of saint Eric (the king Eric Jedvardsson – Erik den helige). Sometimes he is depicted with a sword and a globe as on the matrice and the legend S ERICUS REX SWECIAE or variants. I dont think that is what the legend on the matrice reads, but maybe the picture has something to do with saint Eric??

  5. #5 Tobias
    August 24, 2007

    You are correct, Pierre. I should not have referred to 1545 as “late medieval”. However, I have not seen this type of portrait (from the side) on coins (Swedish at least) predating Gustav Vasa. I guess that one should keep an open mind as regards the nationality of the owner, though. It might not even be a Swede.

  6. #6 Martin R
    August 24, 2007

    I’ve had half-remembered second-hand information originating with the State Herald that the seal belonged to an unknown member of the lower nobility. So I’ve tried pestering the Herald with questions, to no avail. Strange really, he’s a friendly guy.