Edgcumbe altar frontal

Contributed by Cornwall Museums

Edgcumbe altar frontal

THIS OBJECT IS PART OF THE PROJECT 'A HISTORY OF CORNWALL IN 100 OBJECTS'.

COTEHELE HOUSE. This rare survival of a pre-Reformation altar frontal was made for the Edgcumbes of Cotehele. The heraldry shows that it was made after the marriage of Piers Edgcumbe and Joan Durnford in 1493. By this marriage, the Edgcumbes gained large areas of land in and around Plymouth. Piers had remarried by 1524. His new wife, Katherine ap Gryffyth - a St John by birth - had royal connections and was lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves.

The frontal of crimson velvet shows Christ and the twelve apostles, though St Paul with his sword has been substituted for Judas. The figures were individually worked in coloured silks and metal threads on linen and then appliquéd on. Other figures, including a St Michael, also survive here. This suggests that the frontal may once have belonged to a set of ecclesiastical hangings. The frontal's size suggests it was used in a church, like Calstock, not a house chapel.

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