' The Luck of Edenhall'
Syria or Egypt
1200s (13th century)
Width 11.1 cm (maximum) x height 15.8 cm
Glass, gilded and enamelled
Museum No. C.1 to B-1959
Purchased with the assistance of the Pilgrim Trust, the National Art Collections Fund, the Goldsmiths' Company, the Salters' Company, the Drapers' Company and the Merchant Taylors' Company.
The glass beaker known as the Luck of Edenhall was made in Egypt or Syria, probably in the 13th century. At the time the Arab lands produced the world's finest glassware, which was decorated with enamelled and gilded designs. It was traded from Ireland to China.
Early in its history, the beaker was brought to England, most likely by an Italian merchant. In the 1200s and 1300s centuries, the north of the country was troubled by border raids, during which the gold and silver vessels used in church services were regularly stolen by invading Scots. Because of this, the locals were given permission to use glass instead, and the beaker may have been used as a chalice in the Mass. This would explain why it was given a fine leather case moulded with the sacred monogram IHS - an abbreviation of the Latin phrase Iesus Hominum Salvator, 'Jesus, Saviour of Mankind'.
For centuries, the beaker was in the possession of the Musgrave family, who lived in a house called Eden Hall in the north of England. Its true origins were forgotten, and a legend grew up to explain its presence. According to this tale, a party of fairies were interrupted while making merry round a spring near the Hall called St Cuthbert's Well. As they fled, they left the beaker behind, and one of the last cried out, 'If this cup should break or fall Farewell the Luck of Edenhall.'