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Featured Museum Piece

Pokal or Brimming Cup by Mettlach

This month, we feature a stunning and rare Pokal or brimming cup by Mettlach of Germany. Pokals are large ceremonial drinking vessels that do not have handles. Often they stand on a pedestal and have a removable lid.  One can assume that they were filled with large amounts of beer (to the brim) and used to celebrate special occasions.  Pieces like this may have been used for the Starkbierzeit, or “strong beer festival”, held every March in Munich as a break from Lenten self-denial.  In this case, the pokal would have been filled with doppelbock, a special brew with as much as 10 per cent alcohol by volume, brewed especially for the Starkbierzeit.  Produced in 1897, this amazing piece of porcelain stands 25" tall and features images of various wild creatures, the master hunter St. Hubert, his dog, and the head of a glorious stag with a cross between his antlers. The ornately decorated lid features a sculpture of a fox. Inscribed at the bottom of this piece are the words “Hubertus Sankt,” Latin for “Saint Hubert.”

Saint Hubert was widely venerated during the Middle Ages as the patron saint of hunters, opticians, and metalworkers. Most of his life was spent in and around Belgium and France. Born into a family of enormous wealth and prestige, Hubert passed his days holding court and pursuing the hunt. Around 682, Hubert met a young courtesan named Floribanne, daughter of the Count of Leuven. Early in their marriage, Hubert and Floribanne conceived a child. As fate would have it, Floribanne died giving birth to their son, Floribert. Hubert was deeply moved by the loss of his wife and retreated to the forests of Ardennes, forsaking faith and family.

As the legend goes, Hubert was perusing a particularly magnificent stag on the morn of Good Friday. When ready to release his arrow, the stag turned to show a gloriously shining cross between his antlers. Hubert heard a voice cry out “Unless though turnest to the Lord and leadest thou a pious life, quickly shall thou fall into Hell.” Hubert fell prostrate on the ground and asked “What, my Lord, shall I do?” Hubert was instructed to seek out Bishop Lambert of Tongeren Maastricht. Bishop Lambert instructed the newly converted Hubert to make a pilgrimage to Rome. During Hubert’s pilgrimage, the Bishop Lambert was assassinated. It is said that the Holy Father had a vision of Bishop Lambert’s assassination and was told to install Hubert as Bishop of Maastricht upon his arrival in Rome. After receiving his Bishopric, Hubert became known as a great orator and converter of pagans. He predicted the date of his own death and was said to have died while reciting the “Our Father.” He died during the early 8th century. Hubert found his final resting place at the Benedictine Abbey of Amdain. For many years, the site became the focus of holy pilgrimages. Legend has it that the remains of St. Hubert were stolen during the reformation.

The pokal that is featured in our museum was designed and produced by Mettlach. Mettlach is Latin for “middle lakes” and is the name of a small village on the Saar River in West Germany. Most of the ceramics made in that region are designated “Mettlach” even though they were produced by the Villeroy and Boch Company. The Mettlach backstamp was used to avoid confusion with respect to Villeroy and Boch wares made at other factories.

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