Chertsey tiles: Richard and Saladin


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

These belong to the largest group of tiles in The British Museum's collections, found at the site of Chertsey Abbey, Surrey. They combine technical excellence with elaborate decoration. Each roundel consists of four quarter tiles set into a mosaic of foliate designs. They depict a vigorous display of valour as the English king Richard I (reigned 1189-99) slays Saladin (1138-93) with his lance. The lance is used as a device to take the action from one roundel to the next.When did this scene of mortal combat occur and what is its significance? In fact, although Richard and Saladin were famous adversaries during the Third Crusade (AD 1189-92), Saladin did not die at Richard's hands. The scene is a dramatic invention as part of the larger theme of the combat of man against lion. This was clearly intended to refer to Richard (known as 'the Lion-Heart') and to act as a tribute to his bravery in battle.The subject had a natural appeal for English kings and was a particular favourite of Henry III (reigned 1216-72) who had it painted on the walls of the Antioch Chamber at Clarendon Palace. The quality and draughtsmanship of the tiles is superior to other tiles produced at Chertsey and this may suggest that they were intended to furnish a royal palace.Do the crowns framing the two roundels indicate royal patronage? This is unlikely since the tiles with crowns are arranged as a result of a later reconstruction, and it is unlikely to have been the original layout. Tiles survive with letters spelling out Richard's name, along with other words which suggest that the roundels were surrounded by an inscription telling the story.


  • Title: Chertsey tiles: Richard and Saladin
  • Date Created: 1200/1299
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 260.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: lead-glazed; slip-decorated; inlaid
  • Subject: ruler; equestrian; single combat
  • Registration number: 1885,1113.9065-9070
  • Production place: Made in Chertsey
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Chertsey Abbey
  • Period/culture: Late Medieval
  • Material: earthenware
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Shurlock, H Manwaring

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