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The Coronation of the Virgin Mary capital

12th century

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The Coronation of the Virgin on a capital from Reading Abbey

This capital of Caen stone features the earliest surviving depiction of the coronation of the Virgin Mary. Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 and had a special devotion to the Mother of Christ. The monks also owned relics, including her hair, parts of her robe, girdle and sepulchre. However, even the monks doubted whether it really was her hair.

A capital is the piece of carved stone on top of a column that supports an arch. This capital is one of a group of stones originally from Reading Abbey that were recovered at Borough Marsh beside the River Thames near Wargrave, Berkshire in 1948 by George Zarnecki of the Courtauld Institute of Art. Stone from the cloister arcade was taken to the Marsh after the Dissolution of the Abbey in 1539.

The front shows the Virgin Mary seated towards the left of a long throne facing forwards. To the right is a male figure, presumably Christ. His right arm reaches to the top of Mary's head, but the hand and the crown it presumably held are missing. To the left of the scene is a column with the beginnings of arches. The entire upper part of the capital is lost.

Museum object number REDMG : 1992.95.1

height 20 cm, width 28 cm

See related topic: Reading Abbey