A rare carved oak tankard, which is said to have been saved from King Henry VIII’s looters during the Dissolution, has returned to its historical home for the first time in 125 years.
The 16th century Glastonbury Grace Cup has gone on public display at Glastonbury Abbey.
It was last in the Somerset town 125 years ago as one of the exhibits to celebrate the inauguration of the Glastonbury Antiquarian Society in 1886.
Tim Hopkinson-Ball, Abbey trustee and vice chairman of the Antiquarian Society, said he was delighted that the artefact had returned once again.
“It is always thrilling when we find forgotten treasures associated with the Abbey and it is fitting that we can celebrate the 125 anniversary of the Glastonbury Antiquarian Society at the same time as the return of the Grace Cup,” he said.
The Grace Cup is said to have belonged to the abbots of Glastonbury and when the abbey was dissolved in 1539 it was given to the Arundells of Wardour for safe keeping.
According to tradition, it escaped destruction a second time when Parliamentarians besieged Old Wardour Castle in 1643 during the English Civil War.
While her husband, Thomas Arundell, was away fighting for the King, Lady Blanche nobly defended the castle for nine days with only 25 fighting men.
Although forced to surrender, she still managed to save the cup by hiding it.
Lord Talbot of Malahide, a descendent of the family, is loaning it to the abbey.
He said: “I am delighted it is on display again locally – it has always been known as the Glastonbury Grace Cup.
“I do wonder how it escaped being looted in the civil war but perhaps it was because it was made of wood.”
The rare artefact is decorated with 12 Apostles and the Crucifixion, surrounded by birds, beasts and flowers.
It is called a Grace Cup because of its religious associations and because this type of drinking vessel was passed around the assembled company after a “grace” or thanks-giving prayer.
The cup is also known as a “peg tankard” because of the internal vertical row of pegs, which allocated drinkers an equal measure of ale.
The exhibition runs until January 31.
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