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Three University faculty staves : Law, Divinity and Medicine and Arts

Silver, iron and wood

Origin: Probably Oxford

Date: 1566 (Law and Divinity); c. 1450-1500 (Medicine and Arts)

115.6 cm length (Law); 116.8 cm length (Divinity); 119.3 cm length (Medicine and Arts)

Heraldry: Law: Royal arms shown as France quartering England as used between 1413-1603. Divinity and Medicine and Arts: University arms, incorporating, in Latin, the opening words of St John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God".

Deposited on loan from the University of Oxford, 1875 and 1895; LI 1043.1; LI 1043.2; LI 1043.8

T. Schroder (2009), no. 310

The form of the stave derives from the flanged medieval weapon, the mace. In common with late sixteenth-century civic maces, the pointed lower end recalls the weapon in residual form. The University staves, however, have two heads. The carrying of the stave relates to the tradition of municipal sergeants carrying maces to represent mayoral and royal authority, a tradition that dates to the thirteenth century. The staves were carried by the University beadles. The duties of the beadle included attending the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor, publishing proclamations and serving writs and citations. The inscriptions on each of the staves relate to the three faculties: 'I am the way, the truth and the light' for Divinity, 'Fairness and the good. The stave of justice' for Law, and "Knowledge and morals. The stave of philosophy' for Medicine and Arts (translated). The later Law and Divinity staves are thought to have been ordered for Queen Elizabeth's visit to Oxford in 1566.

Information derived from T. Schroder, British and Continental Gold and Silver in the Ashmolean (2009)

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