Christianity in 10 objects
This object is a gift that was created for Westminster Abbey. Designed to be used during Holy Communion, this chalice and paten are decorated with miniature buttresses which remind us of the real ones supporting the Abbey. It also shows the Abbey’s coat of arms, along with the arms of Herbert Ryle, Dean of Westminster when the gift was given. Have you spotted something else? The gold figure in the middle is St Edward the Confessor, the Anglo-Saxon king who chose to glorify God by building the first stone church at Westminster Abbey.
Edward is important as a king, but even more important to the Abbey as the only king of England to be canonised, or made a saint. A saint is someone who has led a holy life and is said to be especially close to God, in life and in death.
This chalice and paten, given to the Abbey in 1925, were specifically designed to be used in St Edward the Confessor’s Chapel. Those receiving the Eucharist would be standing next to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, where the saint is buried. His shrine is in the heart of the Abbey in the same way that this gold figure is in the centre of the chalice.
St Edward the Confessor is depicted on this chalice because he matters for all of Christianity as well as being remembered at Westminster Abbey. Christians believe that they can look to saints as examples of how to lead their own lives, like a role model. During Edwardtide each year, a period when the Abbey particularly celebrates the life of the saint, pilgrims travel to pray at the shrine, hoping to feel closer to the saint and to God.
Visit the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries to see the St Edward the Confessor chalice, and many more objects, in real life. High above the Abbey floor, come face to face with the Abbey’s greatest treasures covering over 1,000 years of faith and history. Along with worship, examine objects that teach us about the building of Westminster Abbey, its role in national memory and its relationship with royalty.
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It’s very hard not to be enthusiastic working at the Abbey. If this place doesn’t make you smile I don’t know what will.