Decorated with enamel and made from gilt copper, this casket was
produced in Limoges, France.
Limoges was the centre of a prosperous trade in enamel work from
about 1130 until 1371, when the Black Prince sacked the town.
Made from powdered coloured glass, usually bound with oil, enamel
is affixed to a metal surface by firing. Champleve enamel, of which
this is an example, is produced by engraving sunken fields into
the surface of the object, pouring the molten enamel into the fields
and then polishing down the surrounding material once cooled.
Imagery and Use
On the front of the casket you can see the martyrdom of St Thomas
Becket. Three of the four knights are pictured, each with their
weapons raised, ready to strike Thomas. Behind the Archbishop we
see the altar and the hand of God appearing from the heavens above,
reminding us of the sacred setting of this murder.
Pictured above is the burial of Thomas. His body is wrapped in cloth
and is being placed in a highly decorative tomb. On the sides of
the casket we see Mary and Jesus.
If you look at the back of the casket you can see a small door with
a keyhole, giving a clue to the purpose of the piece. Made soon
after the murder, this casket would have been produced to hold a
relic of the Saint and to offer salvation to those who sought Thomasís