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Priest's Chalice, Medieval

  • Medieval Chalice

The pewter chalice relates to a chaplain, who was an ordained priest.  In the Middle Ages it was common practice for a priest to be buried with a chalice to show when called to the Last Judgement that he had been able to perform the sacraments, including communion, when alive. The church silver would have been too costly to bury, so a cheap one was used instead. A Bishop would have their staff and ring buried with them also. As the chalice was found with the coffin in the area of the St Nicholas Hospital, then it should relate to the chaplain of the hospital.

The hospital of St Nicholas in Carlisle was a religious foundation. This was in the area at the bottom of Botchergate where it joins London Road. Take the right fork at the junction between the two and it is about where the bridge crosses the railway. It was founded outside the Walls of the city to the south. By 1292 it maintained 12 infirm men, and had a master and a chaplain.

Medieval hospitals fell into several catergories designed to look after the sick, poor, lepers, pilgrims and the elderly. But those with contagious or incurable diseases might be denied entry. Residents would return this kindness with prayers for the souls of those who looked after them.

Related to this funerary paten

Key facts: 
  • The pewter chalice was buried with the chaplain of St Nicholas Hospital in Carlisle during the thirteenth century.
  • This showed that the chaplain was a priest, and could therefore perform church and religious rituals, ready for his resurrection on Judgement Day.
  • This chalice came with the paten or dish designed to hold the consecrated bread for communion.

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