In addition to the reliquaries and ritual objects related to the episcopal liturgy, which comprises two episcopal rings and a crook, two mitres and a Byzantine cross, the Treasure of Oignies also contains liturgical objects such as the portable altar that belonged to Jacques de Vitry, an evangeliary with remarkable silver bookbinding plates and, above all, this chalice and paten.

The chalice and paten are among the oldest works attributed to Hugo d’Oignies and are certainly amongst the most masterly. According to a tradition that was already spoken of in the 17th century, these objects would have belonged to Gilles de Walcourt, the eldest of the three brothers who founded the priory. Hugo, the youngest of the brothers would have created them for the important ceremony of consecrating the high altar, presided over by Jacques de Vitry, in January 1228.

Hugo d’Oignies signed a number of his works, which is rather unusual in medieval silverware. The niello inscription on the foot of this chalice mentions his name and confirms that he belonged to the priory: « HUGO ME FECIT: ORATE PRO EO: CALIX ECCLESIE BEATI NICHOLAI DE OIGNIES: AVE » (Hugo created me. Pray for him. The Chalice of the Church of Saint-Nicolas d’Oignies. Hail!).

The use of niello is characteristic in Hugo’s work. It is a technique that involved engraving a motif on a piece of precious metal and then filling in the grooves with a paste made from a mixture of copper, lead and sulphur. Firing the metal coloured the paste black. The metal was then polished, which produced an extremely beautiful contrast between the dull black of the mixture in the grooves and the shine of the polished metal surface.

Website Musée Provincial des Arts Anciens du Namurois

Material / technique: 
Silver gilt and niello
17.8 x 15.4 cms
Type of acquisition: 
Donated by the Sœurs de Notre-Dame de Namur
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Musée Provincial des Arts Anciens du Namurois, Namur