Neck Chain of a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece


Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

This is the only surviving neck chain from the early period of the
Order of the Golden Fleece. The chain consists of two elements recurring in a continuous pattern: flint (a type of stone that produces sparks when struck with steel, employed for igniting fires), represented by black-enamelled, hemispheric stones with white flecks, emitting flashes of fire laterally; and fire-steels (used to strike the flint), two of which frame each flint and whose hookshaped handles are linked together to form the chain. Each of the thirty
knights of the order is represented by one fire-steel, with the sovereign
(for reasons of symmetry) symbolised by two. Duke Philip the Good
incorporated flint and fire-steel into his coat of arms when he ascended
the throne in 1419, as an illustration of his motto “Ante ferit quam
flamma micet” (“It strikes before bursting into flame”). These symbols
were later also adopted by the order, whose actual insignia is the ram’s
fleece that hangs from the chain. The chain was awarded by the sovereign and symbolised the fundamental concept of equality and brotherhood among members of a secular order of knights, since membership in the Order of the Golden Fleece was experienced as a strong, distinctly holy bond. Consisting of a series of loose elements that support each other and create a unified whole only when they are linked together, the chain is thus a vivid symbol of this idea of unity. © Masterpieces of the Secular Treasury, Edited by Wilfried Seipel, Vienna 2008


  • Title: Neck Chain of a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1430/1500
  • Location Created: Brussels
  • Inventory Number: SK_WS_XIV_263
  • Type: goldwork
  • External Link: http://www.kaiserliche-schatzkammer.at/

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