Levanto and Henry VIII


The cup of Henry VIII in Levanto


Sounds crazy, but there’a story about the cup of Henry VIII in Levanto. Yes, that Henry VIII!

In the history of Levanto there are two famous people: Henry VIII, King of England and Gioacchino Da Passano, leading exponent of a local noble family. He lived between 1465 and 1551.

The former is known to have started in England the Anglican Reformation, as well as his seven wives who did not end that well. The second is according to the most a stranger yet in his days he was famous and influential.

In fact, he spent his life at the service of the Republic of Genoa, on whose behalf he held positions of great prestige. He also was a papal legate at the court of France, and then ambassador in England.

At his death, he left a considerable part of his large fortune to the Community of Levanto, which, however, did not get it ‘cause of his family strong opposition.

The cup of Henry VIII in Levanto, an interesting story

The names of these two characters are linked by a legend according to which, at the time that Gioacchino was Ambassador of the Republic of Genoa in England, he’d won a chess game with Henry VIII. As a reward he then received as a gift a precious cup, which he then gave to the church of Sant’Andrea di Levanto, where it is still guarded.

The cup of Henry VIII in Levanto

This admirable object, in casted and chased silver, is a work of fine parisian silverware dated 1532/33.

It has a base in twelve large lobes with many figures in colored enamel depicting prophets and Old Testament characters. Each of which is identified by a small cartouche bearing the name (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, Habakkuk, Joel, Micah , Nahum, Hosea, Jonah, Jacob, Moses and David).

The stem has an oval handle with twelve engraved plates depicting the twelve apostles, while the outside of the cup is decorated with alternate leaves of laurel and acanthus.

The precious cup in its design and structure, has an obvious symbolic meaning derived from the fathers of the Old Testament the apostles that culminate with the figure of Christ, from which during the mass in the shape of the bowl performs the ultimate sacrifice.

Of course it is now not possible to check if the legend of the game of chess between Henry VIII and Gioacchino Da Passano is reliable or not, even for the fact that it is documented from relatively recent times.

Surely it is a non common cup, if not of the king of England, it was certainly owned by a dignitary or prelate of the Catholic Church.