At the Danish Viking Exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) there was a display entitled “A casket for a princess?”
“Fit for royalty, an expert Viking carver likely crafted this casket for a princess’ dowry.
Shaped like a Viking house, the ornamentation of the elk antlers plates show gripping beasts, masks, birds, and snakes intertwined with tendrils. The gilded brackets end in three-dimensional animal heads with open jaws.
The original casket upon which this replica is based disappeared during World War II. It was last seen in Kamien Pomorski Cathedral in Poland before the war.”
The casket replica was in a display with the harness bow I showed earlier, a sword, embroidered clothing, and the display also had information about keys and the role of ‘housewives’ as property managers.
I was curious to learn more about the casket – known as the Cammin casket, so did a little reading. The Swedish language wikipedia article says that it was made by southern Scandinavian artisans around the year 1000 CE.
The article suggested that the casket might be the same box that The Younger Edda poet Snorri Sturluson mentioned in the royal tales Heimskringla. In these stories the Danish King Erik Emune gave a box that had belonged to Sigurd the Crusader to the Citadel Church in Kungahälla, Sweden. The church was later looted in 1135, and the casket was removed – explaining how it might have ended up elsewhere. Of course, the story might just be that… since the poet wasn’t born until 1175 – after the church was looted.
The article describes the chest as:
“The chest of drawers was made of wood, but lined with cut-out moose horn tiles in Mammen style and framed with gilded bronze ribbons. The box had the dimensions 63 x 33 x 26 centimetres” and notes that it is shape is similar to Viking hall buildings of the time, with long curved sides, and a curved roof ridge. The animal heads that adorn the casket also “correspond to the carved ornaments on the beams of the nave.”
Another part of the same article says that the cut plates of elk horn likely would have been imported from Sweden or Norway. (Elk noted here, rather than moose)
Reproduction at the V&A museum
I also found an article about a reproduction of the casket at the V&A museum, that the author nicknamed “the Dragon’s Egg” because of it’s ovoid shape. It’s a plaster cast, the original described as:
“Oval reliquary, known as that of St. Cordula in the Cathedral of Cammin in Pomerania. Scandinavian? 10th-11th century […] composed of bone plaques, possibly of some antediluvian animal, with slightly incised ornaments of a Runic character, united by metal bands with animals’ and birds’ heads in full relief and bold design. […] Each [plaque] is ornamented with figures of long-bodied monstrous animals with long tails interlacing with their legs and bodies, and terminating in rude foliations; the bodies covered with small scales produced by cross hatching; the general design resembling those on the Runic gravestones of Sweden and Scandinavia, and evidently by the same hands of the casket of Cunigunda.”
The article also has a number of high quality (albeit black and white) photos of the plaster cast reproduction – far better than the photos I was able to take at the Royal Alberta Museum.
More to come
In the top photo you might have wondered about the garments displayed with the casket…. a post about the embroidery display will be coming soon!
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