Offeret Mvnvscvlvm Sco Stefano Theodosivs Abba
We do not know who Theodosius was, but Amador, judging from the simple decoration of this crown, believes him to have been a priest of lower rank, and by no means a dignitary of the Visigothic church.
A votive cross also forms part of this collection, which has a simple sunk device along the edges and seven pendent stones, two of these hanging from each of the lateral arms, and three, a little larger, from the lower arm. The inscription, which is rough in the extreme, appears to be the work of some illiterate craftsman, and has been interpreted with difficulty: -
In Nomine Dei: In Nomine Sci Offeret lucetius e
This reading gives an extra letter at the end, which may be construed as Episcopus - or anything else, according to the student's fancy.
I may close my notice of this collection in the Royal Armoury at Madrid by drawing attention to a greenish, semi-opaque stone, three-quarters of an inch in height. It is engraved en creux upon two facets with the scene of the Annunciation. The gem itself is commonly taken for an emerald, of which, referring to the glyptic art among the Visigoths, the learned Isidore remarked that "Sculpentibus quoque gemmas nulla gratior oculorum refectio est" I shall insert a sketch of the cutting on this stone as a tailpiece to the chapter, and here append a full description. "The Virgin listens standing to the Archangel Gabriel, who communicates to her the will of the Almighty. Before her is a jar, from which projects the stem of a lily, emblematic of the chaste and pure, that reaches to her breast. Her figure is completely out of measurement. Upon her head appears to be a nimbus or amiculum; her breast is covered with a broad and folded fascia, enveloping her arms, while her tunic, reaching to the ground, conceals one of her feet. The angel in the cutting on the stone is at the Virgin's right. His attitude is that of one who is conveying tidings. Large wings folded upon his shoulders and extending nearly to the ground are fitted to his form, better drawn and livelier than the Virgin's. He executes his holy mission with his right hand lifted. His dress is a tunic in small folds, over which is a cloak fastened by a brooch and fitting closely. Upon his head he wears a kind of helmet." 1
The drawing of this design upon the stone is most bizarre and barbarous; for the Virgin's head is so completely disproportioned that it forms the one-third part of her entire person.
The merit of all this Visigothic gem or gold and silver work has been extolled too highly by the French and Spanish archaeologists.2 It is, however, greatly interesting. Rudely and ponderously magnificent, it tells us of a people who as yet were almost wholly strangers to the true artistic sense. Such were the Visigoths and the Spaniards of the Visigothic era, of all of whom I have observed elsewhere that "serfdom was the distinguishing mark of the commons; arrogance, of the nobility; avarice, and ambition of temporal and political power, of the clergy; regicide and tumult, of the crown."1 These crowns of Guarrazar proclaim to us in plainest language that the volume of the stones, and showiness and glitter of the precious metal were accorded preference of every other factor - the pondus auri preference of the manus artificis. We gather, too, from documents and chronicles and popular tradition, that the Visigothic princes, as they set apart their stores of treasure in secluded caves or in the strong rooms of their palaces, were ever captivated and corrupted by the mere intrinsic worth in opposition to the nobler and aesthetic value of the craftsmanship.
1 Amador de los Rios, El Arte latino-bizantino en Espana y las Coronas Visigodas de Guarrazar, p. 121.
2 E.g. Sommerard: "Une collection sans egale de joyaux les plus precieux qui, par la splendeur de la matiere, le merite de Vexecution, et plus encore, pent etre, par leur origine incontestable et par leur etonnante conservation, surpassent tout ce qui possedent d'analogue les collections publiques de V Europe et les tresors les plus renommes de I' Italie."
Thus we are told that Sisenand owned a plate of gold (no word is said of its design or style) five hundred pounds in weight, proceeding from the royal treasure of his race, and which, long years before, had been presented by the nobleman Accio to King Turismund. When Sisenand was conspiring to dethrone Swinthila, he called on Dagobert the king of France to come to his support, and promised him, as recompense, this golden plate. The French king lent his help forthwith, and then, as soon as Turismund was seated on the throne of Spain, despatched an embassy to bring the coveted vessel to his court. Sisenand fulfilled his word and placed the envoys in possession of the plate, but since his subjects, rising in rebellion, wrenched it from their power and kept it under custody, he compensated Dagobert by a money payment of two hundred thousand sueldos. 1
1 Toledo and Madrid; p. 16.
Innumerable narratives and legends dwell upon the treasure taken by the Moors on entering Spain. Such as relate the battle of the Guadalete, or the Lake of Janda (as it is also called by some authorities), agree that when the fatal day was at an end the riderless steed of Roderick was found imbedded in the mire, wearing a saddle of massive gold adorned with emeralds and rubies. According to Al-Makkari, that luckless monarch's boots were also made of gold studded with precious stones, while the Muslim victors, stripping the Visigothic dead, identified the nobles by the golden rings upon their fingers, those of a less exalted rank by their silver rings, and the slaves by their rings of copper. The widow of the fallen king was also famous for her stores of jewellery. Her name was Eila or Egilona (Umm-Asim of the Moors), but she was known besides as "the lady of the beautiful necklaces." After being made a prisoner she was given in marriage to the young prince Abd-al-Azis, who grew to love her very greatly, and received from her, "seeing that she still retained sufficient of her royal wealth," the present of a crown.
1 Ajbar Machmna. Lafuente y Alcantara's edition; p. 27, note.