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    Medieval and Renaissance, Room 50c, case 1 []

A pax (Latin: 'peace') is a small plaque with a representation of the Crucifixion or other religious subject on the face and a projecting handle on the back. Paxes symbolised the kiss or embrace which the priest celebrating mass passed to his subordinates, and which was then transferred to the congregation. The pax was kissed first by the celebrant, and then by others who received it (and kissed it) in turn.

This pax, and a plaque from another also in the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A M.204-1956), were probably made for the Carthusian Monastery of Miraflores, Burgos, which was founded by John II of Castile in 1441 and, after a fire, rebuilt in 1453-1484. The maker of this pax, Juan de Horna (or Orna) (ca. 1475-1543) lived and worked in Burgos, the main centre for silversmithing in Castile (central Spain). Horna was praised by sixteenth-century writers for designing and decorating his pieces using motifs from the Classical past, at a time when the Classical style in Spain was arguably most evident in architecture and sculpture. Modern scholars have described this pax as a masterpiece of Renaissance Spanish silver.

Descriptive line

Silver gilt depicting the Virgin giving an alb to St Ildephonsus

Labels and date

Silver, parcel-gilt
Attributed to Juan de Orna (active about 1520-1540)
Spanish (Burgos); about 1530
Paxes were used to drinking the Mass as part of the 'kiss of Peace' ritual, signifying peace between Christians. The image on the pax would first be kissed by the priest and then by members of the congregation. The embossed relief on this pax depicts St. Ildefonso, Archbishop of Toledo (d.667) with the Virgin Mary who, according to tradition, appeared to him in a vision and presented him with a chasuble as a reward for his devotion. Behind this scene is a triptych showing the Crucifixion, with St. James the Greater and a kneeling bishop on the wings. On the pediment is the head of God the Father and above it the figure of a monastic saint. []
Silver, parcel-gilt, embossed, chased and cast
Attributed to Juan de Orna
Spanish (Burgos); about 1530
Depicting St. Ildefonso receiving the chasuble from the Virgin, and the Crucifixion with St. James the Greater. The figure on the top is the Dominican saint Aquinas or Domingo da Guzmar. []


Metalwork; Religion; Christianity


Metalwork Collection

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