An official seal of Boudewijn IV, duke of Bruges, has been returned to the city by the government of Denmark.
The piece is reckoned to be 1,000 years old, and can be seen now in the exhibition “Verhalen uit de ondergrond – Brugge in het jaar 1000” (Tales from the underground – Bruges in the year 1,000) currently taking place at the Gruuthusemuseum.
Boudewijn, also known as Boudewijn the Bearded, ruled as duke over Flanders from 987 – when he was a child of seven – to 1035. His mother Rozala sat as regent until he attained majority, following the death of his father Arnulf II in 987.
During his reign, he organised the works to enlarge the city harbour in Bruges and the Flemish coastline, which even then was under threat from the build-up of silt to sea traffic.
The stamp carries his image, armed with a spear or lance and a sword, a traditional sort of portrayal although his rule was mainly peaceful.
The stamp first came to light in the modern era at the start of the 20th century, when it resurfaced in a potato field in the west of Denmark. It was at that time taken up in the collection of the Danish national museum.
“It is made of lead and apart from some corrosion damage it is in good condition,” said Karen Brynjolf Pedersen of the Danish National Museum, the VRT reports.
The precise origin of the seal remained a mystery until it was identified by an employee of Raakvlak, the heritage organisation for Bruges and surroundings.
“It is exceptional that a piece like this is found in its entirety. Because after a duke was no longer active, his stamps were basically destroyed to prevent their misuse,” said Caroline Landsheere of the organisation. “How the stamp got to Denmark is a mystery.”
The piece is considered so special that the Danish sent a member of museum staff to accompany it on its trip back to Bruges.
“She was watching the seal the whole time,” Landsheere explained. “At night it was in a safe. Today she took it out. She is the only one allowed to touch the seal stamp. Now the glass is over and the seal stamp will remain in the display case for two years. We can’t handle that ourselves. In two years she will come back and then she will accompany the seal back to Denmark.”