Belt buckle decorated with a gryphon

Middle Ages. Gold and bronze. Inv.: D.80.2.118

This buckle in gilded bronze exemplifies the refinement demonstrated by some elements of medieval clothing. It was found in a vault in the cloister of Saint-Émilion in Gironde, in the midst of the bones of a body near which was found a glass phial.

The ardillon still has the traditional Merovingian form and the leather of the belt was riveted to the plate which bore relief decoration. The design of the buckle represents the combat between an asp and a basilisk, two fantastical animals related to dragons and representing the powers of Evil. The battle is fierce. The basilisk, a winged monster, has the head of a cock and the body of a lizard, whose barbed tail is turned defensively. Attacked by a snake-bodied asp which envelops its head, the basilisk has grasped the tail of its enemy in its dragon paws in order to strike it down.


Belt buckle decorated with a gryphon (c) mairie de Bordeaux. Photo J. Gilson