Brass of the Month

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June 2013 - Robert Hallum, Bishop of Salisbury, 1416, Konstanz Cathedral (Baden-Württemberg)

This important brass has long been known to English antiquaries, though difficult to see.   It lies on the sanctuary floor, between the high altar and the temporary “Volksaltar”, protected by a low railing.  I am grateful to the Kustor of the Cathedral for exceptional permission to photograph it, albeit very quickly; more grateful to Tim Sutton for “stitching” together my snaps to make one image of the entire brass.  It was engraved for Edward Kite’s Monumental Brasses of Wiltshire (1860, reprinted 1969), as a fold-out plate, and illustrated from a rubbing by Malcolm Norris (Monumental Brasses – the Memorials, fig. 105).

Sally Badham confirms Norris’ conjecture that it is an outstanding example of the London “D” style, in almost perfect condition.  The slab is of Purbeck marble, and the surface remains in good condition throughout, doubtless owing to the secluded position of the brass.  The sinister shield has certainly been restored: Kite shows it missing, as it is on a rubbing of 1864 in the Antiquaries’ collection.  The cross-hatching is very different from that elsewhere on the brass, and seems to be intended to represent sable or black in the modern convention.   There is a tiny piece of damage on the almuce: in H.K. Cameron’s rubbing, done in the 1930s, the incipient crack can be seen, which has obviously spread.  More puzzling is the fact that not only his rubbing, done after the shield was restored, but also the 1864 rubbing and an undated 19th-century dabbing, appear to show the surface as very worn, the angels’ faces, for instance, almost blank.  Yet it does not look as if they have been re-cut: they must be extremely lightly engraved.  In Kite’s engraving, most of the word mense in the bottom line is omitted, as if a piece of the fillet were missing, but there is no indication of any join in the metal as it is now.   

So has there been any restoration?   It seems incredible that a German engraver could have copied the English style so closely: all 19th-century restorations give themselves away by the treatment of the metal, flat-bottomed grooves instead of v-shaped, cross-hatching much too regular, and so on, not to mention the colour of the metal.   The Konstanz brass is of a uniform colour, with the single exception of the sinister shield.   The Cathedral obviously respect and treasure the brass, and always have done.  The account of the funeral quoted by Kite says he was “buried in the choir with the other Bishops”, but there are no incised slabs or brasses to any other bishops in the choir.  If there ever were any, the Chapter obviously considered them not worth preserving – why should they take such care over this foreigner?


He was quite a significant figure, of course, and has a long entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Bishop Hallum attended the Council of Constance which was the last occasion on which a Pope abdicated – in that case there were three, all of whom were deposed by the Council to put an end to the Western Schism; two, John XXIII and Gregory XII went quietly, the third, Benedict XIII, refused to go, and lingered on in Spain for many years with few supporters.   Hallum was particularly influential in persuading John XXIII to go.  His death at the Council and his burial in the Cathedral attended by all the prelates and the Emperor is described in von Reichenthal’s account reprinted by Kite.   There has never been any doubt that the brass is English, but it has not formerly been noticed that the stone is also English: it was of course normal to send brasses from the workshop already fastened to their slabs, but it must have added enormously to the cost of transportation of such a weight from London to Konstanz, which is above the Rhine rapids.

         The design is conventional, perhaps slightly unusual in having angels rather than saints in the side-shafts, though so few inhabited shafts survive for comparison.   On the amice are the letters a and either r or v: Kite suggests ave or alpha-omega, neither of which seem right, Norris thinks they are his initials.  If the inscription ran round the apparel, it would be r---a, perhaps regia, as he was a royal ambassador.  The gablette of the canopy encloses the name rob(ertu)s.  Of the shields the dexter, France Modern quartering England, is surrounded by the familiar motto, slightly garbled, gony soit oy mal y pense.   The sinister now bears Sable, on a cross engrailed Or eleven trefoils Sable, a crescent for difference, with the motto Misericordias domini in eternum Cantabo, (I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever; Psalm 88:2).  The arms of Hallum given in the Mediaeval Ordinary (Vol. III, p. 109) are Sable, a cross ermine: this looks like an engraver’s attempt to interpret and embellish it.

 The marginal inscription, with the usual evangelistic symbols, is in Latin hexameters with internal rhymes:

 Subiacet hic stratus  Robert(us) Hallum vocitatus

 Quondam p(re)latus   Sar(um) sub honore creatus

 Hic decretor(um)   doctor pacis q(ue) creator

 Nobilis anglor(um)  Regis fuit ambaciator.

 Festu(m) cuchberti  septembris mense vigebat

 In quo Rob(er)ti   mortem Constantia flebat.

 Anno Milleno   trecent(um) octuageno

 Sex cu(m) ter deno  cu(m) xpo vivat ameno.


Beneath here lies the man called Robert Hallum, once created prelate of Sarum, for honour; He was a doctor of decretals and maker of peace, and ambassador of the noble King of the English.  The feast of Cuthbert was being kept in the month of September on which day Konstanz mourned the death of Robert.  In the year one thousand, three hundred and eighty, with thrice ten and six [1416]; may he live with our dear Christ.  

The September feast of St Cuthbert is the translation of his relics to Durham, on the 4th.  The lettering is perfectly normal for the period, but it is curious that many of the usual abbreviation marks are missing, and the English saint Cuthbert is mis-spelt.  The engraving made for Kite supplies some of the missing marks, but retains the mis-spelling.   


Photographs by Jerome Bertram, 25 April 2013.



Copyright: Jerome Bertram