Rare 800-year-old figure of Christ returned to York

image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe statue is embellished with stone settings on the crown, eyes and loincloth

An 800-year-old figure of Christ that once adorned St Mary's Abbey in York will be returned to the city after nearly two centuries.

The rare object, made in Limoges, France, in the 13th Century, was found in 1826 in the ruins of the abbey.

It disappeared for 100 years before it became part of a private German art collection in the 1920s.

It was bought by York Museums Trust and will be displayed at the Yorkshire Museum, on the site of the old abbey.

The 16cm figure would have been mounted on an enamelled cross and decorated a religious object, such as a manuscript cover or a casket.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionIt will be displayed alongside other objects including the York Helmet and the Ormside Bowl

It is one of few objects to have survived Henry VIII's brutal dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s.

Although its hands and feet are missing, it is unusual in its completeness, as most examples of Limoges enamelwork are highly fragmentary.

A label stuck to the back of the figurine states that it was found in the abbey's ruins in 1826, just before the Yorkshire Philosophical Society acquired the land to build the Yorkshire Museum.

image copyrightDavid Dixon/Geograph
image captionSt Mary's Abbey was once the richest abbey in the north of England

It it not known where it was between 1826 and 1920 and was feared lost to the public until it reappeared in the collection of Franz Monheim of Aachen.

Lucy Creighton, curator of archaeology at Yorkshire Museum, said: "The figure of Christ is a stunning example of 13th Century religious art - few examples survived in this country in such a complete state.

"This alone would make it a very special object but to be able to trace its origins to St Mary's Abbey, where the Yorkshire Museum now stands, means it is an incredibly rare and extremely valuable find."

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