Hedwig Beaker

Listen as curator David Whitehouse describes this object, a typical example of a puzzling group of glasses known as Hedwig beakers. They are unlike any other medieval objects of glass or rock crystal from the Islamic world, Byzantium, or western Christendom. These colorless or nearly colorless glasses are decorated in slant-cut relief with a variety of motifs, including lions, eagles, griffins, and the tree of life. The group is named after Saint Hedwig of Silesia (d. 1243), who is traditionally associated with three of the beakers. Most of the complete Hedwig beakers were found in church treasuries, and fragments of six others were uncovered at archeological sites, all in Europe. The earliest datable examples belong to the 12th or early 13th century. Scholars have argued variously that the beakers were made in the medieval Islamic world, Byzantium, and southern Italy. There is no decisive evidence in favor of any one of these locations.