Chalice and Paten

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Revealed:  the church chalice that has a curse on it

A cursed silver chalice and paten dating from 1494 which, until recently, was used
regularly for Holy Communion at St. Helen's Church in Clifford  Chambers, is so
fascinating that it is forming part of a major exhibition taking place at the
British Museum next year.

Along with a chalice made during Shakespeare's lifetime in 1571 – which is in the
possession of Holy Trinity Church in Straford – the object pictured left will be
displayed in an exhibition called 'Shakespeare; Staging the World'  from 19th July
to 25th November 2012, as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.

The 1494 chalice and paten (plate) is intriguing for a number of reasons, not least
because it is thought to be one of only three such sets of that age still in
existence in the UK.   But another reason it has triggered a lot of interest, is
because it is believed to contain a curse.

Although the original silversmith has gone to extraordinary lengths to inscribe the
letters of Christ's name J E S U S on part of this fascinating work of art, someone
else has also gone to great pains to deface it with graffiti.   Alongside the
reversed letters S U S E J is the inscription A POX ON Y (ye)

One of the most interesting points about the 1494 chalice is that it is pre-Reformation, made during the reign of the first Tudor, King Henry VII. It survived the melting down of many Catholic sacred objects during the Reformation.

Trinity Times asks, “Was the vandalism the work of someone objection to the decree from Protestant Tudors that all such “Popish” objects should be melted down? Did someone have a grudge against the church or against the clergy? And what possible purpose could there be in painstakingly carving such a curse in a place which normally would be so difficult to find? Almost certainly we shall never know any of the answers.”

The magazine adds, “Usually, graffiti devalues a work of art, but possibly this mystery makes the St. Helen's chalice even more priceless (if that is possible). So it might be sensible to record that it is no longer housed in Clifford Chambers.”

Yesterday (Wednesday) the Vicar of Stratford , the Rev Martin Gorrick, who is also responsible for St. Helen's, told the Herald, “The value of the silver is relatively negligible. Historically, however, it is a priceless object. It is a chalice and paten set from pre-Reformation England, and there are only about three of that age in the UK.”

One interesting fact about the 1494 chalice is that the 'curse' was drawn to the attention of Mr. Gorick by the actor Jeffery Dench brother of Dame Judi Dench, who lived at Clifford Chambers. Said Mr. Gorick. “Jeffery showed me this strange curse. It was him who pointed it out. I had heard of it, but it's very hard to see with the naked eye.”


21st June 1973
The Victorian and Albert Museum from Bristol had written to ask if they could borrow our chalice and pattern to display this with the Nettlecome one, from September for a period of three months.

They guaranteed that all security arrangements would be made plus insurance.

Dr. Bramwell had written, to stall for time, until the new Rector Canon Hawkins was in office, but, in the meantime he would get in touch with The Nettlecome Trustees to see what stipulation they had laid down, before agreeing to lend theirs for exhibit.

24th July 1973

Loan of Chalice and pattern

It was decided not to loan this at present, but a photograph of these would be sent to the Museum, and Mrs. Bramwell will write a note of their history.

20th August 1974

Dr. Bramwell was due to go down to investigate in two weeks time, Will report at next meeting.

25th November 1974

Exhibition of Chalice
Dr. Bramwell reported on the security, which is excellent, and the insurance adequate, and it was agreed that we should allow the chalice to go for a period of six months during next year. Dr. Bramwell will attend to this.

22nd January 1975

Dr. Bramwell to take the Chalice to Bristol on 4th April for six months.

30th September 1975

Chalice and Patten are due for return, and will be collected in the next day or two.

22nd April 1981

Gloucester Dean Chapter had written to ask if they could have our Chalice to put on display at the Cathedral. The Rector Canon Hawkins, had written back saying it was not convenient as we use ours. Gloucester had then written back saying they would loan us one for six months while ours was on display.

After a great deal of discussion, a vote was taken on the proposition of G. Williams and seconded by A. Reece, that we should loan them it, as long as it was for a specific time, and to be displayed without our name. The vote was ll for - two abstaining. The Rector will contact Gloucester again.

28th May 1981

The Rector, Canon Hawkins, had written to Gloucester re the loan but as we were not a unanimous vote, Gloucester could not accept the loan of the Chalice.

13th July 1982

A letter was read from Gloucester whose expert on Church treasures had been to see our other chalice etc. He gave a detailed account of the Small Silver Font and also our other chalice pattern and flagon which were by Humphrey Payne. Gloucester has now requested that we loan these for display for six months. This is to be discussed at our next meeting.

1st March 1983

Chalice and flagon loan to Gloucester - forms already completed but have to be signed by Incumbent which will mean they go to Gloucester for six months after Easter.

24th May 1983

Chalice (George I) and Flagon have gone on loan to Gloucester. Agreement signed by them has been received and insurance covered by them.

10th January 1984

Chalice and Flagon – on loan at Gloucester. Period to be extended as long as Gloucester continue to insure them.

13th March 1985

Chalice and Flagon to stay at Gloucester for a further six months, which will be covered by their insurance.