Our Medieval Treasure Island
We are pleased to present this beautiful set of stamps, in collaboration with Manx National Heritage, to mark another return to the Island of the manuscript of the Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles and the loan of six magnificent Lewis Chessmen showcased in the flagship exhibition ‘The Forgotten Kingdom?’ in an outstanding display at the Manx Museum.
The Chronicles are the earliest written accounts of the Island and document many of the most significant events of the medieval age. Written by monks at Rushen Abbey, they have been in the collections of the British Library for over two hundred years.
A thousand years ago, a powerful sea kingdom was formed encompassing the Outer Hebrides, Skye, the Inner Hebrides, Argyll and the Irish Sea. The seat of power was the Isle of Man. From our small island, the kings of Man and the Isles ruled both the lands and the vital sea route that ran through the heart of what we now know as the British Isles.
This trade route brought riches to and from the kingdom. Exquisitely carved rare chess pieces, silver coins with images of kings and precious symbols of religious power have all been left behind.
The Lewis Chessmen were discovered on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis and were made around 1200AD probably in the city of Trondheim in Norway. Most of them are carved from pieces of walrus tusk, though three are made from the tooth of a sperm whale.
Some of the figures had red staining, indicating that the Medieval version of chess had red and white figures and board, rather than black and white. There are too many pieces to make up one set, but not quite enough to make up four (78 in total) – perhaps the remaining pieces did not survive, or have not yet been found.