Censer and Incense boat (Silver and Silver-gilt) Victoria and Albert Museum: Acquired with the aid of a generous donation from Mr C. W. Dyson Perrins FSA Extremely rare survivals of 14th-century English, religious ceremonial artefacts. Almost all similar objects were confiscated and melted down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-41). Discovered in 1850 when Whittlesea Mere was drained - perhaps they were hidden purposefully, to save them from Henry VIII's officials? Or, more probably, they were lost accidentally before the Dissolution, whilst being transported. Ram figure-heads decorate the incense boat. They are rebuses, a type of word-play, that identified the individual or institution associated with a commission. In this instance, the rams refer to Ramsey Abbey, which sported three ram heads on its coat of arms. Incense vessels were often designed as boats that carried a precious cargo below deck. The incense was spooned onto glowing coals placed in the base of the censer, which often had an architectural design - this example imitates a Chapter House. Chains attached at top and bottom of the censer allowing it to be swing to and fro, emitting clouds of fragrant smoke which conjured the presence of the Holy Spirit for a congregation.

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