The Treasure of Canoscio is a collection of 25 silver articles used in the Eucharistic liturgy. They are examples of early Christian art of VI century brought to light near the Sanctuary of Canoscio, not far from Cittą di Castello, in the Spring of 1935, while the land was being ploughed. They represent one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the last two hundred years. Found heaped together, they had been protected beneath a large
plate reduced to fragments by the impact of the ploughshare. They consist of six
chalices, a pyx with its cover, two
strainers, a small ladle and nine
spoons. The donors were probably Aelianus and Felicitas whose names are inscribed on the
In the early days of Christianity articles which served for the Holy Mass were no different from those in domestic use. In fact to have employed more precious items reserved solely for such a purpose would have exposed Christians to greater risk of persecution.
From IV to VII century in the climate of the " Costantine peace" the Eucharistic rite was established binding all communities to its rules and encouraging the creation of artefacts exclusively for liturgical use, made in precious metals and richly decorated.
The fragments of the large
plate covering the heap were re-assembled in 1990. In the central portion there is the following Latin inscription: " De donis Dei et Sancti Martyris Agapiti Utere Felix". The largest of all the plates found intact is circular with a border strip decorated with a continuous braid pattern engraved between two mouldings.
In the centre a Byzantine Cross is chased on a raised surface below which flow four rivers. At the side of the cross are depicted the right hand of God and a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit; at the bottom there are two lambs facing each other.
From the horizontal arm of the cross the letters Alpha (the beginning) and Omega (the end) are suspended. Of the other plates: one carries decorations similar to that described above, two have a finely chased
cross in the centre surrounded by a formal garland and one, devoid of any religious symbol whatsoever, is decorated in the centre with a crown of leaves. The more elaborate of the two patens is circular and made of sheet silver, with the rim turned under. In the centre is an embossed design, partly lost, showing a small cross enclosed within a leafy garland. This is surrounded by a circle forming a border in which the names "Aelianus et Felicitas" are engraved, interspersed with small crosses. A pleasing pattern of undulating lines extends to the circumference, the upright rim is embossed with a tear-drop motif placed alternately. The other paten has an embossed cross in the centre.
The three chalices are of different sizes. More accurately they are cups of hemispherical shape with a rim turned outwards, sitting on a small circular base. They bear no liturgical
The pyx with its lid was wrongly identified as a chalice. It is a different shape from the chalices described above. The cup, partly damaged, does not have a protruding rim; in fact it turns inward at the top and aligns exactly with the lid. The lid itself was mistaken for a paten but its function seems to be as a cover for the pyx to which it fits so perfectly. There are no religious markings on the pyx or the cover.
Of the two strainers, the larger, oval in shape, is of beaten silver engraved with the monogram of Christ and the Greek letters Alpha and Omega. The outline of the letters is traced in tiny holes, thereby adding an ornamental touch to its function as a strainer.
A moulding accentuates the shape and is continued in the "swan's neck" handle which finishes in a finely-chased swan's head. The ring is simple and smooth. The smaller strainer, in the form of a minuscule ladle, has a cup in which the holes make the pattern of a flower. The joint is finely worked. The handle, terminating in a smooth ring, is twisted in the central section and ribbed at both ends.
The nine spoons are typical of those in domestic use and have smooth handles. All of them-except three, one of which is dainaged, have a lozeng, shaped joint engraved with the monogram P(ie)TAS. There is one of particular elegance (perhaps reserved for use by the celebrant) which has a fish engraved inside the bowl, the design of a flower on the outside and on the joint the head of a lion. The handle is hinged.
The ladle is of sheet metal counterstamped. The handle is a rod decorated with a spiral motif attached to the cup with a square joint with undulated decorative appendages. In the centre of the square is the inscription P(ie)TAS within a crown of leaves from which extend two leafy