In May 2009, James Hyatt, who was only three years old at the time, discovered with his grandfather's metal detector a engraved medallion over 1,500 years old buried in a Hockley field in Essex (east london), and that after an exhaustive forensic investigation has been declared an official treasure according to the 1996 UK Treasury Act.
When the find was made public in 2010, there was a lot of expectation as to how much they would estimate for such a rare jewel, which at first seemed to be worth millions of pounds. All these speculations were left in the air, since the price that was finally set turned out to be much lower than expected.
The British museum acquired the treasure for 70,000, a total that has been divided between the Hyatt family and the owner of the land where the medallion was found. However, the value for which it has been appraised does not do justice to its historical importance, which is what the British Museum has really taken into account when exhibiting it in its Medieval Gallery.
At front of the pendant diamond-shaped, an image of a female saint is engraved, probably st. Helen (mother of Emperor Constantine I the Great), holding a large wooden cross. The figure walks on a cobbled floor and floral motifs can be seen on its sides.
Also in the reverse of the medal, there is a shower of tears of blood that slip from five open wounds, four in each corner and the fifth and last in the heart, symbolizing the five wounds of Christ on the cross. Given the imagery of the pendant, its content was probably created to represent one of the passages that took place in the expedition that carried out the Empress Elena to the Holy Land in search of the True Cross.
Legend has it that at eighty years of age the Empress undertook a journey to Jerusalem to find the sacred log where El Salvador died. After asking the wisest Jews in the city, they all agreed that the cross should be in the same place where Jesus Christ had been crucified, and helped by some Roman troops managed to get there. When excavating the land, the empress found three crosses: that of Jesus Christ and that of the other two thieves who had been raised next to him.
Faced with the impossibility of distinguishing which of the three crosses was the true one, Elena, enlightened by the good judgment of Saint Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, sent for a humble, seriously ill woman. The bishop touched the head of the dying woman with each of the pieces of wood. The first two had no effect on her, but the latter made her regain strength and her health miraculously improved.
Returning to the subject that concerns us, in the edges of the medal you can read inscribed the names of the three wise men: Iaspar (Gaspar), Melcior (Melchor) and Baltasar (Baltasar). In the lateral quarter, a floral carving like those that wrapped the image of Saint Helena on the front of the medal can be seen.
The pendant measures 2.5 cm wide and 3.3 cm long, some characteristics that make this decoration more unusual and difficult to have been elaborated. Experts think that surely, the engravings were enameled when the piece was still new. What they are convinced of is that only people with great fortunes could have afforded themselves such a devoted symbol of their faith in a time like the Middle Ages.