The Bishop’s Seal – Making a Good Impression!

12th February 2018 — 16 Comments


In the past I have published posts … and lost them. Many were valuable assets and, sometimes I resurrect the originals (if it’s possible) to give them a new lease life of life.

To those long-time devoted readers who have read them before, I apologise, but they will be new to most. Today’s offering is about a very important seal matrix.

Andy with metal detector

Andy Falconer

As detectorists many of us are fortunate enough to find a seal matrix and are rather pleased, but this is something different. Historians at the Manx National Heritage (MNH) describe the silver seal discovered by Andy Falconer in the north of the island early in 2012 as incredibly significant.

Glasgow–born detectorist Andy, who moved to the Isle of Man from Guernsey, went one stage further and described his remarkable discovery as the find of a lifetime.

Although he has just been in the hobby for just over two years, Andy has built up quite a collection of finds, but this is probably the best. He was searching in the company of experienced detectorist Rob Farrer when he unearthed the seal.

Andy said, “We had just started out and I was walking towards the end of the field when I found an Elizabeth I hammered coin. I decided to concentrate in that area to look for more coins.”

There was a ‘massive’ signal and it was only about 4” down. Although Andy had no idea what it was at first, when he showed it to Rob his friend’s eyes lit up. Furthermore, Rob was able to tell him exactly what he’d found!

Regular readers may be familiar with the name Farrer. Rob himself hit the headlines when he discovered the fragments of a Viking sword. The story can be seen in the September 2008 edition of The Searcher. He was also awarded with the Manx Heritage Foundation’s prestigious Cultural Award for 2009.


It looked as though Andy’s wish to find something of great importance and also to add to medieval history has come true. The seal (about 3cm in length) was taken to the Manx Museum the following day. Experts cannot be entirely sure who is depicted on the seal, but there is a figure in the praying position near the base and two figures above – probably saints.

Allison Fox, Curator of Archaeology, said that saints were very important people for the whole island and items from the medieval period in history were very rare. Most of the information in their possession had been obtained from manuscripts rather then artefacts.

She went on to say that the seal would’ve been used by a bishop to validate judgments from the Church and dates between 1315 and 1331 A.D. Five different bishops held office during this period so it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which one owned this seal.

The Latin inscription when translated reads Let the prayers to God of Germanus and Patricius help us, so there’s a definite Manx context to its history, but there’s more research to be done. With the permission of Andy and the landowner, the seal starred in the Manx Museum’s Forgotten Kingdom exhibition in 2013.


This is a seal matrix, belonging to a high-ranking Church official and probably used in an ad causas seal – ie used to verify judicial decisions. It dates to around AD 1315–1330 and is a high quality item, with fine engraving and a silver content of around 98%. On the front (reversed, as in all seal matrices) are two forward-facing human figures sitting beneath arches whose architecture is ecclesiastical in nature. The clothing on the figures is also ecclesiastical. Beneath these figures is another human figure, side on, kneeling in prayer and, again, wearing ecclesiastical robes. Around the outer edge is an inscription, most of which is legible, which reads as follows; *SIT __ECE GERMANI PATRICIUS : DEO SAL, translated as Let the prayers to God of Germanus and Patricius help (us)  Manx National Heritage


Before you open your wallet and invest in a new metal detector, take a look at the latest blog post from my doppelgänger in America, Dick Stout. Click on the image …


A version of this blog post was originally published by The Searcher magazine in February 2013



Posts Twitter

The copyright owner of content on this blog is John Winter, unless noted otherwise. Every effort has been made to assure no material was used without permission. If you are the owner and find that your material was inadvertently used without permission then please contact me. Your material will be removed immediately or your copyright message will be added, whatever you prefer.

16 responses to The Bishop’s Seal – Making a Good Impression!

  1. A find those of us on this side of the pond could only dream of, John…WOW! hardly covers it..{No, I cannot bring myself to call it……. awesome.. LOL]

    Do you know if it was declared ‘treasure’? And where it is now?

    Many thanks my friend

    Dreams are best when they can come true!!


  2. That is an absolutely incredible find John. Thank you for bringing this post back to life.
    I had to Google Germanus and Patricius and interestingly enough this was what came up.

    “Saint Germanus of Man (Manx: Carmane) (c. 410, Brittany – c. 474, Normandy), also known as Saint Germanus of Peel, was the first Bishop of the Isle of Man.

    Born in Brittany in the early fifth century, he traveled to Ireland to study with Saint Patrick,[1] who may have been his uncle. Germanus later spent some time in St. Illtud’s abbey in southern Wales before returning to Ireland to be ordained by Patrick, and sent to the Isle of Man as bishop. He is thought to have died in Normandy in the late fifth century.

    In 2012 a bishop’s seal was discovered buried in a field in the north of Man, bearing the inscription, “”Let the prayers to God of Germanus and Patricius help us”.[2]

    His main feast is 3 July, although in some places it is celebrated on 31 July.”

    One thing that I would like to know though is how can they be so certain of the date. The timeline they give is quite small. “dates between 1315 and 1331 A.D.”

  3. Nice day out for sure. Thanks John.

  4. That is brilliant …No night owls no destruction of !!!! (International Heritage) and I assume will be available in time for the world to see .. I congratulate the finder… From down under here in Australia… Lex

  5. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 12th February 2018 at 4:34 AM

    Wow, super impressive!

    I’m shocked at how good the detail still is on that.

    Imagine finding something of that quality at only 4″ down, just spectacular!

  6. Does it qualify as Awesome?

  7. nice find, and a good read john that’s gets my” seal” of approval

  8. Really interesting tale John, thank you for telling it to us all.

  9. I nominate Saints Germain of Man and Patrick as the Patron Saints of Metal Detecting: one for ferrous and one for non-ferrous. You might get better discrimination than with your detector… if ye have the faith… Seriously though, superlative find! Thanks again John!

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.