In 2008, the King Baudouin Foundation purchased a magnificent ceremonial chain, one of the oldest examples of civil silverware in our country.
This silver gilt chain was made around 1525-1530 by two Liege silversmiths, whose names appear on the lower part of the chain: Erard d’Heur, known as the ‘King’ (Master) of the Liege Corporation of Silversmiths between 15256-1536, and Godefroy Godefridi, the ancestor of a long line of silversmiths in the city. The coats of arms engraved on various links of the chain also confirm its origin as Liege.
The chain is composed of nineteen hollowed and chased plaques on two registers. The upper register of the chain’s central piece is in interlacing, in which is a medallion with a portrait in profile and in relief and the Sartorius family’s coat of arms. The lower register is decorated with a rosette and a small chain with a crossbow has been fixed to it, at some later date according to its appearance. The remaining eighteen plaques of the upper register represent bearded men carrying shields. The lower part of the plaques is decorated with plant motifs.
The chain’s origin remains an open question for the time being. Initially, because of the crossbow fixed by two attachments, the chain would have belonged to a military confraternity. Each archery fraternity had a ceremonial chain that was awarded to the winner of the annual archery competition. However, the overall appearance of this chain does not correspond to the typology common among urban military companies. Given its exceptional refinement and high value, this chain must previously have belonged to an important dignitary of the city of Liege, or to an organization wishing to stress its prestige.
One hypothesis links the chain to the Guild of Young Archers. In 1531, Guillaume de Meef prevented a revolt that threatened to destroy the city of Liege. In recognition of his gratitude, the Bishop-Prince Érard de La Marck would have offered this chain to the militia led by Guillaume de Meef. At that moment - or perhaps a little later – the plaques struck with the coats of arms of benefactors or members of the guild would have been added. The archives of the Young Archers’ Guild in fact mention a chain that had been offered by the Bishop-Prince which, as well as the chain’s links also had a dozen plaques, four of which bore the arms of Érard de La Marck.