Early Chalices

Modern Chalices

Muslim Chalices

Achievements with Chalices





The vicarius was a high official appointed by the Emperor and accountable only to him. The position was held by equites who were given the rank of perfectissimus (before the egregii and after the eminentissimi). Thus, in rank, the vicars were inferior to the governors of the senatorial provinces (the consulares), although they had to exercise political authority over them. René Rémond suggests that this paradox was resolved by promoting vicars whose dioceses contained provinces with senatorial governors to the rank of clarissimus, but there is no evidence for this.

Initially, the powers of the vicars were considerable: they controlled and monitored the governors (aside from the proconsuls who governed Asia and Africa), administered the collection of taxes, intervened in military affairs in order to fortify the borders, and judged appeals. They were not under the control of the Praetorian Prefect, but only to the Emperor himself. Appeals of their legal decisions went straight to the emperor.

The vicars had no real military role and had no troops under their command, which was a significant novelty compared to the Augustan provincial system. This was intended to separate military and civilian power and thus prevent rebellions and civil wars.



Originally, in ancient Rome, this office was equivalent to the later English "vice-" (as in "deputy"), used as part of the title of various officials. Each vicarius was assigned to a specific superior official, after whom his full title was generally completed by a genitive (e.g. vicarius praetoris). At a low level of society, the slave of a slave, possibly hired out to raise money to buy manumission, was a servus vicarius.

Later, in the 290s, the Emperor Diocletian carried out a series of administrative reforms, ushering in the period of the Dominate. These reforms also saw the number of Roman provinces increased, and the creation of a new administrative level, the diocese. The dioceses, initially twelve, grouped several provinces, each with its own governor. The dioceses were headed by a vicarius, or, more properly, by a vices agens praefecti praetorio ("deputy of the praetorian prefect:). An exception was the Diocese of the East, which was headed by a comes ("count"). In 370 or 381 Egypt and Cyrenaica were detached from the Diocese of the East and made a diocese under an official called the Augustal Prefect.

In the eastern parts of the Empire, dominated by Greek language and common use of Greek terminology, vicarius was called exarch.

According to the Notitia dignitatum (an early 5th century imperial chancery document), the vicarius had the rank of vir spectabilis; the staff of a vicarius, his officium, was rather similar to a gubernatorial officium.

Foto H.d.V. 2013

Staff of the deputy of the praetorian prefect

 Mold stamp for decorative bricks (mirror image)

Visigotic, 7th cent.  Cordoba, Archaeological Museum.


For example, in the diocese of Hispania, his staff included:


The princeps (i.e. chief of staff) was chosen from among the senior agentes in rebus (couriers or special investigators, 'men of affairs,' from the ministry of the interior headed by the master of the offices), from the salaried class of the ducenarii (those earning 200,000 sesterces a year - the highest regular pay grade in the Roman civil service; the highest officials, governors and above, were not civil service).

A cornicularius ("chief of staff").

Two numerarii (chief accountants).

A commentariensis ("keeper of the commentary", the official diary).

An adiutor (adjutant; literally "helper", an assistant).

An ab actis ("acts-keeper", archivist).

A cura epistolarum ("curator of correspondence").

An unnamed number of subadiuvae ("deputy assistants").

Various exceptores (lower clerks).

Singulares et reliquum officium (various menial staff).


The symbol of  a pre-christian vicarius was a cup.


The cup, having the shape of a small conical vessel held in hand, is of very ancient origin. It is held in hand by the head of state when presenting himself to the ruler and symbolizes the watering of the territory symbolized by a palmtree. Such scenes are for example on Babylonian 16th century BC memorial stones.

Through the ages the cup or chalice is the badge of office of a keeper in general, be it a of a state or any  service. As such it is an attribute of a head of state, a governor, a civil servant, a vicar etc.

A cup supported by any other emblems symbolizing a martial or civil rank is a heraldic emblem of the service of an official performing the upkeeping.


A chalice is the symbol of a servant who performs maintenance services. As a symbol it was calibrated in Mesopotamia when monuments were erected on which a seated monarch is served by an official who waters palmtrees with a chalice.

This act also reflects the relationship between prince and regent, whereby the prince represents the owner of the empire who has religious responsibility for the empire and the regent maintains the empire. This is a relationship that has been maintained in many traditional societies down to modern times.


Early Chalices

Foto H.d.V. VI.’96

Mesopotamian memorial stone

Offering a libation before a seated ruler. Limestone, beginning of the 2nd milennium B.C.

As a war booty transported to Susa in the 12th century B.C.

Excavations of J. De Morgan (Sb7) Musée du Louvre, Paris


On the left side a bearded man in a long robe brings a libation to a date palm (Phoenix dactylifera - Arecaceae). Herodotus writes about the date palm: “Date palms grow everywhere [in Babylon] and are most of the time of the fruit-bearing kind, and the fruits provide them [the Babylonians] of food, whine and honey”

On the right side there is an another  bearded man, seated on a throne with a side-panel in the shape of a city- or palace wall. He wears a long dress of flounces one over the other. On his head he wears a special crown which appeared from the 1st dynasty of Ur (2563-2387) until the 1st dynasty of Babylon

(1894-1595).  In his right hand he keeps a ring-and- staff, a badge of honour appearing in Mesopotamia from the 3rd until the 1st millennium BC . Above the representation is a sun with eight points and eight bundles of rays of the shape that has to be associated with Akkad.


The scene on the stone can be interpreted in different ways. It is of course possible like in the Louvre: Scène de libation devant un dieu trônant (Libation sene before a seated God). Other interpretations are also possible:

  1. On the upper side is the symbol of the realm of Akkad: a sun with eight points and eight bundles of rays.
  2. The seated man on the right is the image of the sovereigm of Akkad
  3. The standing figure is the image of the governor of Akkad, the grand-vizir, minister president or steward. The combination sovereign-grand-vizir also appears on other Mesopotamian reliefs
  4. The date palm represents the territory of Akkad. This would call Akkad “The Land of the Date palms”.
  5. The libation represents the care of the grand vizir for the territory. It can be understood as the symbol of the responsability of the grand-vizir for the irrigation system of Akkad crucial for the agriculture.


In the nexte two examples the sovereign  is missimg but is replaced by the regent to which services are offered.


Babylonian Cilinder seal. Beginning 2nd millenium BC

Boston (Ph. Museum)


Offer of goat. Seated ruler with chalice. Emblem of Babylon


Foto H.d.V. ‘98

Stele depicting a memorial to the dead 8. th cent. B.C.


Pergamonmuseum, Berlin


A servant with knife and fan in hand stands in front of the deceased prince, holding a lotus and a chalice. There are sacrificial dishes on the table. In chief the winged sun of the Hittite Empire.  The monument was found in connection with an underground burial chamber in Sam’al / Zincirli (va 2995)

In this  the chalice may be interpreted as the badge of office of the seated prince


Hemidracma. 338-315 a.C. BEOCIA, ORCHOMENOS.

Obv. : Boeotian shield. Rev.: Amphora between B-O, Weight: 2,62 g. AR.



Kantharos of Stevensweert

Stevensweert, end 1st cent -  mid 1st cent. AD

.Silver, partly gilded, H. 10,5 cm.

Museum Valkhof, Nijmegen


Kantharos is the greek name for a goblet with two large handles. These are lacking on this silver sample which has been found in 1943 or shorly before at gravel digging along the river Meuse, north of Stevensweert. The lavish decorations of this goblet is thoroughly about the god Bacchus, who often is represented himself with a kantharos in his hands.


Jewish shekel,  66-70 AD

With a goblet or chalice on the obverse

The Castellans

In the hierarchical ordering of the Notitia text and imagery the castrensis, or castellan, is the first dignitary with the rank of spectabilis, notable, the second grade of nobility, after illustris. The castrensis, a kind of majordomo of the palace, is the only eunuch whose office and duties are fully described in the Notitia. The castrensis, like other palatine eunuchs, was almost always an imported barbarian slave, usually from Persia or Armenia. The eunuchs, in control as they were of informal access to the imperial family, enjoyed considerable power. Fortunes were spent bribing them in order to secure access to or the good favor of the emperor.

The staff of the castrensis consisted of two accountants, one for the expenses of the emperor and one for the empress or empresses; and assistant; and a secretary with a bureau of clerks. The castrensis also was directly responsible for the pages, pædagogia; the imperial household servants, ministeriales domini and the palace custodians, curæ palatiorum. The pages were those young boys who were taught the arts and graces of court service and attended the emperor at the table, the bath and on the chase. The household servants included the cooks, bakers, carvers, waiters, cup-bearers and tasters. But it is the palace custodians whose duties are directly alluded to in the insignia: The custodians had charge of the banquet halls; they were responsible for their decoration, for the installation of the imperial tables, and for setting out the gold and silver goblets and eating vessels. It is these tables and vessels which constitute the insignia of the castellans in the East and the West.


West. Notitia Dignitatum, fol. 208v.


Sometimes adorned with mosaic, these claw-footed tables with three legs were used in late antique Rome where they had lomg since been adopted from the Greeks. We have examples of such tables and drinking vessels in late antique works such as the Ambrosian Iliad (Milan. Ambrosian Library, Cod. F. 205 Inf) and the Vergilius Romanus (Vatican Cod. lat. 3867; fig 123). The insigne in the West displays just the round-top type, whereas the insigne in the East includes the semi-circular late antique “signa” table seen, for example, in the Rossano Gospels in the Duomo di Rossano. Some of the large vases may be lustral vessels for hand-washing, and the tables not laden with bread or wine may be their stands. Just such tables and vessels can be seen on Latin sarcophagi of the 4th century in the scenes of Pilate washing his hands. So again we have instances in the Notitia of the direct relationship between text and illustration as well as the accurate reflection of late antique palatine iconograpgy.

Since the castellan is not among the illustres but is accorded the rank of spectabilis, something other than the codicillar diptych leaf appears here on the blue cloth-covered table. The object in the East is vaguely articulated: it is rectangular and divided vertically into three unequal sections. In the West, however, the motif is depicted far more distinctly, especially in the MII and Paris versions. The left-most subdivision represents a book with an abbreviated inscription on its cover. The central part has the vertical lines suggestive of the fore edge of a codex. The right-most division is vague, but a glance at more fully articulated representations of these items demonstrates that it is a misunderstood scroll. The book with the inscription is the Liber Mandatorum or Book of Mandates spelling out the dignitary’s duties and giving imperial instructions. These books were sent out to various officials in the realm and contained advice on how to govern. Late antique texts refer to the Book of Mandates in close connection with the codicilli or official document of appointment awarded to each office-holder. Just as a codicillar diptych was granted to higher dignitaris, illustres, so the lower dignitaries, spectabiles, were given their codicils of appointment  in the form of an epistola or a scroll (Cod. Theod. VI, 22, 5). It is this object, the codicilli in the form of a scroll, that appears near or attached directly to the Book of Mandates in their insignia (figs. 25, 27, 67, 68). Thus though its initial appearance here is indistinct, in the archetype the object contiguous to the Book of Mandates in the insignia of the castellans was the codicilli in the form of a scroll. The Carolingian copyist puzzling over the new form on the table neglected to read it or represent it intelligibly. By the time the copyist executed that insigne in the West, however, he reecognized the left part of the object as a book and represented it accurately.

The Book of mandates in the insigne of the castellan in the West appears with an abbreviated inscription on it. This inscription occurs throughout the Notitia insignia on the Books of mandates of those officials who rank as spectabiles. (The lower-ranking clarissimi have a different inscription on their Books.) The abbreviated inscription is: FL INTALL COMORD PR.  which can be read as “FLOREAS/INTER/ALECTOS/COMITES/ORDINIS/PRIMI” or “Mayst thou prosper amongst the cvhosen counts of the first rank.” These words then provide a kind of salutation to the newly appointed official.

Not only the iconography of this insigne has corollaries in late antique art; the manner in which these objects are depicted likewise finds parallels in other late antique works. The objects are presented against a neutral background and appear to be floating on the spaceless page; the sizes of the various objects are completely arbitrary. The tables, furthermore, are presented simultaneously from two different points of view at once - above and straight on. That this mode of representing the tables was authentic to the late antique archetype can be corroborated by a glance at such tables represented in other late antique works: for instance, the small table in the lower part of the Probianus diptych (fig. 106); or the table in the illustration for the month of December in the Vatican copy of the Calendar of 354 where a three-legged table is shown with its top elevated in precisely the same manner. This stylistic element - a bifocally presented obeject - repeats itself throughout the Notitia. Thus even though the iconographic details of the Book of Mandates and epistola have been garbled in the insigne of the East, there is no doubt that the basic page layout, as well as the form of the individual objects, authentically reflects the late antique archetype of the insignia of the castellans.  (Berger, pp. 80-84)



In Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Lutheranism and some other Christian denominations, a chalice is a standing cup used to hold sacramental wine during the Eucharist (also called the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion). Chalices are often made of precious metal, and they are sometimes richly enamelled and jewelled. The gold goblet was symbolic for family and tradition.

The ancient Roman calix was a drinking vessel consisting of a bowl fixed atop a stand, and was in common use at banquets. Chalices have been used since the early church. Because of Jesus' command to his disciples to "Do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19), and Paul's account of the Eucharistic rite in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, the celebration of the Eucharist became central to Christian liturgy. Naturally, the vessels used in this important act of worship were highly decorated and treated with great respect. A number of early examples of chalices have a large bowl and two handles. Over time, the size of the bowl diminished and the base became larger for better stability. Over time, official church regulations dictated the construction, blessing, and treatment of chalices. Some religious traditions still require that the chalice, at least on the inside of the cup, be made of gold.

In Western Christianity, chalices will often have a pommel or node where the stem meets the cup to make the elevation easier. In Roman Catholicism, chalices tend to be tulip-shaped, and the cups are quite narrow. Roman Catholic priests will often receive chalices from members of their families when first ordained.

In Eastern Christianity (Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches), chalices will often have icons enameled or engraved on them, as well as a cross. In Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism, all communicants receive both the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ. To accomplish this, a portion of the Lamb (Host) is placed in the chalice, and then the faithful receive Communion on a spoon. For this reason, eastern chalices tend to have larger, rounded cups. In the Russian Orthodox Church, the faithful will often kiss the "foot" (base) of the chalice after receiving Holy Communion. In other traditions, they will kiss the cup. Although Orthodox monks are not permitted to hold personal possessions, the canons permit a hieromonk (i.e., a monk who has been ordained to the priesthood) to keep a chalice and other vessels necessary to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.

In the early and medieval church, when a deacon was ordained, he would be handed a chalice during the service as a sign of his ministry. Early written accounts of the ordination of deaconesses also reflect this practice. In the West the deacon carries the chalice to the altar at the offertory; in the East, the priest carries the chalice and the deacon carries the paten (diskos). Only wine, water and a portion of the Host are permitted to be placed in the chalice, and it may not be used for any profane purpose.

The chalice is considered to be one of the most sacred vessels in Christian liturgical worship, and it is often blessed before use. In the Roman Catholic Church, and some Anglo-Catholic churches, it was the custom for a chalice to be consecrated by being anointed with chrism, and this consecration could only be performed by a bishop or abbot (only for use within his own monastery). Among the Eastern Churches there are varying practices regarding blessing. In some traditions the very act of celebrating the Sacred Mysteries (Sacrament) is the only blessing necessary; in others, there is a special rite of blessing. In some Eastern traditions this blessing may be done only by a bishop, in some it may be done by a priest. In any case, in both the East and the West, once a chalice has been blessed, it may only be touched by an ordained member of the higher clergy (bishop, priest or deacon). In the Russian Orthodox Church a subdeacon is permitted to touch the holy vessels, but only if they are wrapped in cloth.


4th-5th cent. mosaic with chalice in the Euphrasian basilica, Porec, Croatia.


Foto H.d.V. 2017

Mosaic with chalice, 5th-6th century

From Bordeaux, France

Musée d’Aquitaine, Bordeaux


In the 5th-6th century Bordeaux was a part of the Visigothic Kingdom.


Modern Chalices


About the vase of Soissons


27. After these events Childeric died and his son Clovis reigned in his stead. In the fifth year of his reign (487) Siagrius, king of the Romans, son of Egidius, had his seat in the city of Soissons which Egidius, who has been mentioned before, once held. And Clovis came against him with Ragnachar, his kinsman, because he used to possess the kingdom, and demanded that they make ready a battlefield. And Siagrius did not delay nor was he afraid to resist. And so they fought against each other and Siagrius, seeing his army crushed, turned his back and fled swiftly to king Alaric at Toulouse. And Clovis sent to Alaric to send him back, otherwise he was to know that Clovis would make war on him for his refusal. And Alaric was afraid that he would incur the anger of the Franks on account of Siagrius, seeing it is the fashion of the Goths to be terrified, and he surrendered him in chains to Clovis' envoys. And Clovis took him and gave orders to put him under guard, and when he had got his kingdom he directed that he be executed secretly.; At that time many churches were despoiled by Clovis' army, since he was as yet involved in heathen error. Now the army had taken from a certain church a vase of wonderful size and beauty, along with the remainder of the utensils for the service of the church. And the bishop of the church sent messengers to the king asking that the vase at least be returned, if he could not get back any more of the sacred dishes. On hearing this the king said to the messenger: "Follow us as far as Soissons, because all that has been taken is to be divided there and when the lot assigns me that dish I will do what the father [note: papa. The word was used in the early Middle Ages in unrestricted, informal sense, and applied widely to bishops. Cf. Du Cange, Glossariam] asks." Then when he came to Soissons and all the booty was set in their midst, the king said: “I ask of you, brave warriors, not to refuse to grant me in addition to my share, yonder dish,” that is, he was speaking of the vase just mentioned. In answer to the speech of the king those of more sense replied: “Glorious king, all that we see is yours, and we ourselves are subject to your rule. Now do what seems well­pleasing to you; for no one is able to resist your power.” When they said this a foolish, envious and excitable fellow lifted his battle­ax and struck the vase, and cried in a loud voice:  “You shall get nothing here except what the lot fairly bestows on you.” At this all were stupefied, but the king endured the insult with the gentleness of patience, and taking the vase he handed it over to the messenger of the church, nursing the wound deep in his heart. And at the end of the year he ordered the whole army to come with their equipment of armor, to show the brightness of their arms on the field of March. And when he was reviewing them all carefully, he came to the man who struck the vase, and said to him “No one has brought armor so carelessly kept as you; for neither your spear nor sword nor ax is in serviceable condition.” And seizing his ax he cast it to the earth, and when the other had bent over somewhat to pick it up, the king raised his hands and drove his own ax into the man's head. “This,” said he, “is what you did at Soissons to the vase.” Upon the death of this man, he ordered the rest to depart, raising great dread of himself by this action./ He made many wars and gained many victories. In the tenth year of his reign he made war on the Thuringi and brought them under his dominion. [1]


If we accept that a chalice/goblet was the badge of an important official of the court we may understand why Clovis made such a problem of its ownership.



The Treasure of Gourdon (Trésor de Gourdon), unearthed near Gourdon, Saône-et-Loire, in 1845, is a hoard of gold, the objects dating to the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century, which was secreted soon after 524. When it was found, the hoard comprised a chalice and a rectangular paten, that were similarly applied with garnets and turquoises in cloisonné compartments, together with about a hundred gold coins dating from the reigns of Byzantine emperors Leo I (457–474) through that of Justin I (518–527). The Merovingian king Clovis I converted to Christianity in 496; the chalice and paten might be called early Merovingian or late Gallo-Roman.


Æ See: Kingdom of Burgundy

The treasure is preserved in the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris, a department of the Bibliothèque Nationale


Liturgical chalice,

signed by the goldsmith, St. Eligius (588-660), formerly in the convent of Chelles (France). Bowl, stem and foot are decorated with the cloisonné technique


Empress Anastasia with a chalice

On a mosaic in the San Vitale in Ravenna, 580 ca


Angel with cup

Sassanian, Taq i Bustan, 591-628



Bronze. H. 24 cm, Æ 17cm.

Boul Gerede. Byzantine, 6th century

Istanbul Archaeological Museum 7852

(Schatten uit Turkije, 254)


Ardagh chalice, 750ca

Cup and bottom decorated with square crosses, symbols of administrative authority


The Tassilo Chalice.

Presented by Tassilo and his wife Liutperga in 777 to the Monastery of Kremsmünster,

where it is still preserved


Stuttgarter Psalter (820-830)

Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, Bibl. fol. 23


Bottle of Charlemagne,

Burgundy, 9th cent.

Treasury of St. Maurice Abbey (Wallis, C.H.)


This bottle has more the shape of the bottle as in the Notitia Dignitatum and may have been the badge of the Castellan of Burgundy. On the side is an achievement of a square cross supported by two griffins (badge of a praetor).


Gauzelinus chalice, 950


Foto H.d.V. 2017

Two bishops of Autun

Without crozier and mitre, the left one with crown

Musée Lapidaire Autun


Foto H.d.V. 2017

Gravestone with chalice

Beginning 15th cent.?

Musée Lapidaire Autun


Holy Grail


In this context we may point at the legend of the Holy Grail, apparently the symbol of (early) Christian administrative authority, given to Jozef of Arimathea and only available for a knight of undisputed christian reputation.


The Holy Grail is a dish, plate, stone, or cup that is part of an important theme of Arthurian literature. A grail, wondrous but not explicitly holy, first appears in Perceval le Gallois, an unfinished romance by Chrétien de Troyes: it is a processional salver used to serve at a feast. Chrétien's story attracted many continuators, translators and interpreters in the later 12th and early 13th centuries, including Wolfram von Eschenbach, who makes the grail a great precious stone that fell from the sky. The Grail legend became interwoven with legends of the Holy Chalice. The connection with Joseph of Arimathea and with vessels associated with the Last Supper and crucifixion of Jesus, dates from Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie (late 12th century) in which Joseph receives the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Great Britain. Building upon this theme, later writers recounted how Joseph used the Grail to catch Christ's blood while interring him and how he founded a line of guardians to keep it safe in Britain. The legend may combine Christian lore with a Celtic myth of a cauldron endowed with special powers.


St Bernward Chalice, 1390

Domschatz, Hildesheim


The Hussites



The arms of The Hussites


Chalice and paten

Spain (?), 15th cent. Gilded brass.

Musée de Cluny Legate François-Achille Wasset, 1906. Cl. 14781 a & b


Dornburger Abendmalskelch, 1562-‘70

Museum Jena


Muslim Chalices


In the muslim empires we have seen cups in the hands of the Ummayad Caliphs and the Seljuq Sultans.


The cup has not escaped the attention of two most important scientists, even when they do not label the cup as the symbol of administrative authority or any office.

Nevertheless, the Mamluk Empire for example, had a very extended bureaucracy and we may assume that many officers of this bureaucracy had their own emblems.

These were not of  the animal kind like the in the Persian and Chinese systems.


L.A.Mayer writes:


“When the theory explaining the Mamluk blazon as a symbol of office was first advanced, the cup was one of the cases quoted. There was more of intuition than of knowledge in this suggestion, as the inscriptions accompanying the actual examples did not contain any reference to the office of a cup-bearer, nor was any one of the holders of these blazons called ‘cup-bearer’ in the extracts quoted by the different Arab authors. [....] Each of the following holders of simple blazons with a cup is styled ‘cup-bearer’ (saqi) in the relevant inscriptions: [eight names]

The following is known to have been a cup-bearer: [six names]

Of the following I know nothing: [eleven names]”[2]


And he gives a collection of  52 composite blazons with cups:


When we accept that the cup was the symbol of administrative authority it follows that these composite blazons represent the different administrative officers. For example (in the Mamluk Empire):


  • Steward of the Domains of the Crown, responsible for the administration of the Royal domains;
  • Civil steward of the purse of the army,  responsible for the financial department;
  • First treasurer, chief of the treasure; 
  • Secretary of the Arab Privy Council, chief of the secretaries, magistrates, first secretaries and subordinated officers. [3]


If these blazons were of administrative officers this would also explain the occurrence of a pen-box (the emblem of a secretary) in so many of them.

Of a pen-box Mayer also gives some examples showing subtle differences:



Cups on muslim cloth and earthenware and the like, collected by Yacoub Artin Pasha [4]



The Achievement


The Achievement of the Office of the Palace

The cup or bowl as the central piece of an achievement is known for example from Roman France. It is also known from the 8th century Muslim Empire.


Bone comb, 1st century AD

excavated at the construction of the N-S Stadtbahn of Cologne. (2004-2011)

Römisch Germanisches Museum, Köln [5]

Achievement of cup/chalice and griffins.


In Roman times the Praetorium in Colonia Agrippina served as the residence and office of the governor of the province of Germania Inferior, as well as the administration building.[6] In his person, the governor united the military superintendency over the Low Germanic army (Exercitus Germania Inferioris) and the civilian supreme command over the province. His civilian authority included both the judiciary as well as the executive and, in the regional context, the legislative power. The governpr of a province was always a former Roman consul as Legatus Augusti pro praetore ("emissary of the Emperor in the rank of a praetor"). He was only subordinated to the Emperor. In order to accomplish his tasks, he  controlled a large administrative apparatus, a Cohort infantry, and an Ala cavalry


A The large administrative body at his service was symbolized by an achievement consisting of a cup or goblet, symbolizing administrative authority, supported by two griffins symbolizing the rank of Praetor, together making “The administration by the grace/support of the Praetor” (Praetorian vicariate).

Such an achievement is on the comb excavated at the digging of a tunnel for Chlodwigsplatz Station of the subway in Cologne in the years 2004-’11.


Cup supported by two griffins,

Mid 2nd century AD. Trier, museum


Achievement of peacocks and chalice, in base two christograms

Mould stamp for decorative bricks, visigothic, 6th cent.

Museum Cordoba


One of the palatine officers who was in the service of the Visigothic kings was called Comes Scanciorum or "Count of the Cup-bearers". The count headed the Scancia (singular scancium) which in English would be called cellars or buttery and in French échansonnerie, which is a cognate to the Latinized Gothic term used in Spain. The count would have poured the king's wine or drink personally while the other cup-bearers served other distinguished guests at the royal table.


Cup between the symbol of armed authority and the badges of a bishop

Spanish, 500 ca.

National Museum Sevilla


This would be the achievement of the diocesan vicariate


Achievement of a chalice supported by peacocks

Chapel near Damascus Gate, Jeruzalem, 550 ca


This would be the achievement of the prefectorial vicariate


Foto H.d.V. 2017

Achievement of a chalice supported by stags before trees 500 AD ca

Merovingian. Museum, Sens

Achievement of the patriarchal vicariate of Sens


The Merovingian Administration

Among the Merovingian officials the foremost place was gradually taken by the Mayor of the Palace, whose office was peculiar to the Merovingian courts but was the successor of the roman Castellan. Landed proprietors were in the habit of putting their various domains under the charge of majores, mayors; and a major domus, placed over these various mayors, supervised all the estates, and all the revenues from them were paid in to him. The Mayor of the Palace was at first the overseer of all the royal estates, and was also charged with maintaining discipline in the royal household. Being always in close relation with the king, he soon acquired political functions. If the king was a minor, it was his duty as nutricius to watch over his education. The dukes and counts, who came from time to time to the palace, fell under his authority, and before long he began to send them orders when they were in their administrative districts; and he acquired an influence in their appointment. As the whole of the administration centred in the palace he became in the end the head of the administration. He presided over the royal court of justice and often commanded the army. In the struggle of the great men against the royal house one of the points for which they contended was the right to impose upon the sovereign a mayor of the palace of their choice; and each division of Gaul (Neustria, Burgundy, and Austrasia) desired to have its own mayor. We have seen that a single family, descended from Arnulf and Pepin I, succeeded in getting the office of Mayor of the Palace into their own hands and rendered it hereditary. From 687-751, the Mayors of this family were the real rulers of the Frankish kingdom, and in 751 it was strong enough to seize the crown.


Tomb said to have been of St. Chalan, 623 ca

 with achievement of a chalice supported by griffins

On the cover an achievement of a christogram supported by peacocks

Musée municipal, Bourges


This achievement is to be compared with the achievements from Colonia and Treves. It can be de achievement of the metropolitan vicariate


Sarcophage de Saint Leonien, St. Pierre, Vienne

Chalice  supported by two peacocks


This woukd be the achievement of a prefectorial vicariate


Achievement of chalice and peacocks from the Oratory of San Michele to Pusterla,

177´66 cm. Beginning 8th cent.

Pavia, Museo Civico Malaspina,



Detail of the façade of the Caliphal residence of al-Walid II (743-744)

showing a cup supported by a griffin and a senmurw.

Limestone. Mshatta, Jordan. Museum für islamische Kunst. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Inv.-Nr. I. 6163.


This would be the achievement of the vicariate of the prefect and caliph.


Another one, from the same palace shows a cup supported by two lions:



As the griffin and the lion were badges of  military rank we may conclude that the administrative departments were usually controlled by amirs of different ranks


This is the achievement of the ducal vicariate



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© Hubert de Vries 2020-10-05; Updated 2020-11-01




[2] Mayer, L.A.: Saracenic Heraldry. A survey. At the Clarendon Press. Oxford, 1933/­1950. XVI + 302 pp. LXXI pl.. Pp. 10-11, 30.

[3] After Riley Smith: Atlas of the Crusades.

[4] Artin Pacha, Yacoub: Contribution a l'étude du blason en Orient.  Londres, 1902