Of that portion of the treasure of Guarrazar which has remained at Madrid (Plate i.), the most important object is the votive crown of King Swinthila, son of Recared, and described as "one of the most illustrious and unlucky princes that ever occupied the throne of Atawulf." This crown measures nine inches in diameter by two and a half in height. It consists of thin gold plates united at the edge, leaving, between the inner and the outer side, a hollow space about a quarter of an inch across. The exterior is divided into a central horizontal hoop or band between two others, somewhat narrower, at the top and bottom, these last being slightly raised above the level of the third. A triple row of precious stones, amounting to one hundred and twenty-five pearls and sapphires in the entire crown, surrounds the outer surface of the same, the central band or zone of which contains besides, wrought in repousse on the hoop, a simple circular device wherein each centre is a sapphire or a pearl, though many of these have fallen from their setting. The spaces which describe these circles are superposed on what looks like a red enamel retaining at this moment all or nearly all its pristine brightness of twelve hundred years ago. This substance was believed by French investigators to be a coloured glass or paste,1 but Amador, after protracted chemical experiments, declared it to be layers of cornelian. Some of these layers have fallen from their grip, and if the crown be stirred are heard to move within. It is worth remarking, too, that the fillets which form the setting of the precious stones were made apart and welded afterwards; nor are these settings uniform in shape, but tally in each instance with the outline of the gem.
1 Description du tresor dc Guarrazar.
Treasure Of Guarrazar (Royal Armoury, Madrid)
The chains which served for hanging up the crown are four in number. As in the crown of Recceswinth, each of them is composed of four repousse cinquefoil links adorned along their edge with small gold beads minutely threaded on a wire and fastened on by fusing. The chains converge into an ornament shaped like two lilies pointing stem to stem, so that the lower is inverted, although they are divided by a piece of faceted rock crystal.2 Four gems are hung from filbert to that of my fist. Some were covered with a thin, opaque integument.... The river Henares abounds with these crystals, and as it passes San Fernando, at two leagues' distance from Madrid, sweeps some of them along which are the size of the largest ones at Strasburg, though very few are perfect."
1 "Ce que je puis affirmer, apres Vexamen le plus minutieux, c'est que la mature qui fait le fond de cette riche ornamentation est reellement du verre." - Lasteyrie, supported by Sommerard.
2 "In Spain," said Bowles (Hist. Nat. de Esp., p. 498), "are found two species of rock crystal. The one, occurring in clusters, are transparent, six-sided, and always have their source in rocks. There are great quantities all over the kingdom, and at Madrid they are found near the hills of San Isidro. The other species are found singly, and are rounded like a pebble. I have seen them from the size of a either lily, and issuing from the uppermost of these a strong gold hook attaches to the final length of chain.
Possibly the chain and cross now hanging through the circuit of the crown were not originally part of it. This cross is most remarkable. It has four arms of equal length, gracefully curved, and is wrought of plates of gold in duplicate, fastened back to back by straps of gold along the edges. The centre holds a piece of crystal in the midst of pearls and gold bead work threaded on a wire of the same metal and attached by fusion. Several fairly large stones are hung from the lateral and lower arms of the cross by small gold chains.
The letters hanging from Swinthila's crown are cut and punched from thin gold plates. Their decoration is a zigzag ornament backed by the same mysterious crimson substance as the circular devices on the hoop. Hanging from the letters are pearls, sapphires, and several imitation stones - particularly imitation emeralds - in paste.
The cross before the letters points to a custom of that period. We find it also on Swinthila's coins, and those of other Visigothic kings. Of the letters themselves twelve have been recovered, thus: -
Sv Ti Nv Rex Off T
The chains, however, or fragments of them, amount to twenty-three - precisely (if we count the cross) the number needed to complete the dedication.1
The Royal Armoury contains another crown, a great deal smaller and less ornamented than Swinthila's. The body of this crown, which was presented by the finder to the late Queen Isabella the Second, is just a hoop of gold, two inches deep and five across, hinged like the more elaborate and larger crowns, but merely decorated
1 A veritable cryptogram awaited the decipherers of these legends. When King Swinthila's crown was brought to light, four of the letters only were in place, thus: -
Eight of the others were recovered shortly after; two more, an E and L, appeared at a later date, and eight continued to be missing. The inscription dangling from the crown of Recceswinth arrived at Paris in this eloquent form: -
Rrcceefevinstvsetorhfex with a fine gold spiral at the rims, a zigzag pattern in repousse, and a rudely executed scale-work. The dedication on this cross is in the centre of the hoop, and says -