Iconic Medieval Item on Display At Coventry Gallery During UK City Of Culture 2021
A rare example of a medieval ceremonial sword is now on display at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, marking the first time the object has returned to Coventry in over 500 years.
The Coventry Sword had huge civic importance during Coventry’s economic and political heyday in the 1400s. At the time, Coventry was the fourth largest city in England, had its own county and for three years during the Wars of the Roses was the royal capital.
The sword, of which now only the hilt remains, was carried in front of the mayor during processions and was an important symbol of the city’s constitution and liberties. Particularly prominent are instances where the sword was carried in front of Henry VI and Queen Margaret of Anjou.
The sword was confiscated by Edward IV after the Battle of Barnet in 1471, because the city had refused him entry before the battle. The sword’s hilt then resurfaced in a rubbish heap in Whitechapel, London, in 1897. Having passed through the hands of multiple owners since, the Medieval Coventry Sword is now in the Burrell Collection at the Glasgow City Museum.
This loan has been made possible through the kind support of Ciaran Davis and the John Laing Charitable Trust. Davis, who previously worked with the Herbert on the exhibition ‘Irish Heart, Coventry Home’, was offered the opportunity to make a charitable donation of £2,500 from the John Laing Charitable Trust on his behalf, he said:
‘It’s great to see the Sword back in Coventry in time for the City of Culture celebrations. This item symbolises the rich medieval history of the city and I’m grateful that the grant from the John Laing Charitable Trust means it can return home.’
The kind donation has gone towards transport, conservation and a redisplay of the History Gallery, as well as making the piece accessible through a revised learning programme that links to St Mary’s Guild Hall.
Mark Webb, Director, Medieval Coventry Charity added:
‘The Coventry ceremonial sword is an example of the many surviving treasures from Coventry’s medieval heyday which deserve to be better known. It is also a reminder of Coventry’s municipal arrangements, which are amongst the oldest in the country.’
Francis Nielsen, Culture and Creative Director of Culture Coventry Trust said:
‘We are so grateful to everyone involved who has made this loan possible and cannot wait to see visitors encounter an object of such historic importance to Coventry, during City of Culture 2021.’
The Medieval Coventry Sword is on display at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum from the 3rd of July until 21st of November 2021.
Lent by Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums) on behalf of Glasgow City Council: from the Burrell Collection with the approval of the Burrell Trustees.