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“Hail Mary” brooch declared treasure

This week a coroner declared this gold medieval “Hail Mary” brooch treasure.

The find

William Nordhoff found the brooch in a field in Pewsey Vale, Wiltshire in early 2021.

William almost didn’t stop at the field as it was difficult to walk on, when he got a signal on his detector. When he dug down “there was this glint of gold looking back at me. I was so shocked it made me sit down for what seemed like ages I was just sat there looking at it. I knew straight away it was something special, because I’ve seen these brooches before but I’ve never seen these brooches with so much writing on them.

Recorded at PAS

PAS record of Hail Mary brooch

The brooch was recorded at the PAS as WILT-328649 where it was designated a Find of Note of National Importance.

The “Hail Mary” brooch

The medieval brooch has a lozengiform cross-section and is engraved on all four sides, Three sides read + AVE. MARIA. GRACIA. PLENA: DOMINVS: + // T: ECVM: BENEDICTATV: INMULIERIBV[…] // ET: BENEDI(CT)VS: FRVCTVS: VENTRIS: TVI. AMEN. This translates to“Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb“.

The final side reads + A + G + L + A + which are Hebrew for Atha Gebir Leilam Adonai, “Thou art mighty forever, O Lord“. This is thought to be used as a charm against fever and appears on other finds recorded at the PAS.

Although inscribed annular medieval rings are not uncommon, it is rare to have such a lengthy inscription. The workmanship is also impressive at it does not contain the usual spelling errors (except a missing “S” to accommodate the pin) found on other brooches.

Several things add to the importance of this find. It is gold, has four inscribed surfaces with a lengthy prayer and amuletic initials and these are error free. This is why it is considered of National Importance.

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