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The History of Brass Rubbings

The History of Brass Rubbings

Medieval churches throughout Great Britain, Scotland, and Europe contain a range of treasures which provide unique and interesting artifacts of excellent craftsmanship. Of particular interest are engraved brass plaques, since they were laid down inside of the churches as portraits in memory of the deceased. Memorial brasses are tombstones that were engraved on brass plates and laid into stone.

Monumental Brass Of a Knight

Some brasses date back as far as the 12th century and they can still be found in many English and a few European cathedrals and churches. Between the 13th and 17th centuries, it was fashionable to have one's portrait engraved as a memorial on a stone or brass slab. Knights, ladies, and priests were portrayed in stylized form, yet their costumes are depicted with extraordinary authenticity.

Approximately 8,000 brasses have survived, and these are now mainly concentrated in the Southern and Eastern counties of England. These are just a small fraction of what once existed. They are one of the country's most fascinating historical treasures, as they provide a fascinating look at the changes that occurred in clothing, armor, religious beliefs, and of course — power and wealth. They are a living history of that era, known as the "the age of chivalry," and commemorate famous kings and queens, knights, their ladies, and other citizens of Medieval and Tudor times.

Types of Brass Rubbing

Brass rubbings are broken down into two specific categories:

  • Monumental Brasses: All of the brasses in this category are copies (some reduced in scale) taken from original memorial brasses. Most of the brasses in this category are featured with a 'stone' effect outer setting. However, a few have a full black colored outer setting.

  • Theme Brasses: The brasses in this category feature famous people, and have been created specifically for the purpose of brass rubbing. They were not taken from memorial brasses.

  • Brass rubbings typically are made using gold, silver, red, and green wax. On the rare occasion, you may find one in other colors — but this is not typical. Each commission is unique, and the rubbing is typically produced on black paper. Depending on its size and complexity, a commission can take over 40 hours to complete.

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