Turky Carbuncle!

Posted by: Richenda at Friday August 8, 2008 in

What the heck is a Turky Carbuncle??

With my book finished, my collections delivered, and my office clean, I have returned to doing a bit of transcription. I am still working on the eternal Chapter IV from Shrines of British Saints , and as I’m typing along I come across this tasty little morsel:

By virtue of this commission [Henry VIII’s destruction of monastic shrines] there was taken out of the cathedral of Lincoln, on the 11th of June, 1540, 2,621 ounces of gold, and 4,285 ounces of silver, besides a great number of pearls and precious stones which were of great value, as diamonds, sapphires, rubies—

[Wait for it—]

turky carbuncles, etc.”

lol! Back to my first question, what the heck is a Turky Carbuncle?

I should mention this phrase seems all the funnier to me because the book’s author, especially in describing the greed and destruction of Henry VIII and his commissioners, at times sounds very indignant. So when a seemingly snooty and indignant person complains to you about the loss of his turky carbuncles…well, you could see that might elicit a giggle or two!

And the answer is:

Especially garnets, but any deep red stone with no faceting and a round shape was known in the middle ages as a carbuncle. (This is why the sore on your behind after a day on horseback is also called a carbuncle; it, too, is deeply red and round.) As to a ‘turky’ carbuncle, I couldn’t find anything in particular. But I am guessing it is a type of carbuncle associated with belonging to the Turkish territory or Muslim people.

And if you know something else about it, please let me know.

Though I can’t help thinking of all those gorgeous gold and garnet ornaments made during the dark ages by the Germanic barbarian goldsmiths. Were the garnets in those beautiful creations also called carbuncles? And if so, I think that’s a shame. Such extraordinary work, and the best compliment the poor artist could get was “Lovely work, Ulfic, love those pulchritudinous carbuncles.” Hm…not good.

Commenting is closed for this article.