As you may expect due to the wholesale and well-organised confiscation of parish silver in the mid sixteenth century, medieval English parish plate does not survive in vast quantities. There are just seventy seven chalices made between 1160 and the Reformation still surviving and about one hundred patens. Curiously and we don’t really know why, the county of Norfolk has a third (thirty three) of the surviving one hundred medieval patens and no chalices. I want to illustrate two of them.
The first example dates from c.1450 and is the earliest of the two patens I will show you. The paten was originally parcel-gilt, but very little of the gilding now remains. I suspect that some of it was lost in the nineteenth century, when the paten was restored. In the centre of the paten is a depressed sextfoil and this is decorated with a full-frontal bust of Christ set against a cross-hatched ground. This image, the Vernicle, is the commonest form of decoration on surviving English patens. Others in the group are decorated similarly with the Manus Dei, the Hand of God appearing in blessing from a cloud and the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. Like a lot of early English plate the paten is not marked.