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Object of the Fortnight – The Unitarian Flaming Chalice

October 23, 20141:40 pmSeptember 25, 2023 1:41 pmLeave a Comment

This week’s blog focuses on a new object we have just kindly received, a Unitarian Flaming Chalice, and will tell the story behind it. It has being put on display in the Bradford Room, so please come to visit the museum to see it! 

Who are the Unitarians? 

Unitarians have their roots in Christianity and are now known to have an open minded and welcoming approach to faith that encourages individual freedom and equality for all. They believe everyone has the right to reach their own conclusions. 

A little bit of history 

The Unitarian movement can be traced back to the 16th century in Poland and Transylvania. However, in Britain, it was originally seen as heresy and several early radical reformers that supported the Unitarian cause in the 16th and 17th centuries suffered imprisonment and martyrdom for their beliefs.

The first Unitarian church in the UK was opened in London in 1774 and there are now more than two hundred congregations throughout the country.

Some prominent Unitarians include Joseph Priestley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens and Thomas Jefferson. 

The Story behind the Chalice 

The Chalice started out by representing the religious courage of Jan Hus, a Czech Priest during the fifteenth century. He offered communion to his congregants going against the Roman Church, who felt the sharing of the wine should be between priests only. He was burnt at the stake for this act.

During the Second World War Reverend Charles Joy, an American Unitarian was stationed in Lisbon to help with the refugees who came there. He commissioned a Czech refugee, Hans Deutsch, to design something that could be used on official documents. Hans first brought together the chalice and the flame as a Unitarian symbol. This saw the emergence of the modern chalice.

With thanks to James Timiney for his kind donation of the object and the useful information sheet he provided to be shared with visitors.

Written by Charlotte Hall. Charlotte joined The Peace Museum in May 2014 as a collections intern and is now working as a museum assistant. Charlotte has been leading a location audit of the collections and has helped install and research objects in the newly developed WWI gallery. Charlotte is studying a Masters in Museum and Art Gallery Studies at the University of Manchester.

Written by Ezra Kingston

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