Belted: Quick Bite

Happy Friday! Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re getting belted…Visigoth style. Join me as we try on some dazzling 6th century belt buckles.

Visigothic Belt Buckle (c525-560), Cleveland Museum of Art

This swanky Visigothic buckle (c525-560) is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Set in bronze, zoom in and note the delicate inlay of red garnets, bits of blue-green glass, and mother of pearl. The intricate design is exquisite. But wait, there’s more! Behind the stones, a thin sheet of gold foil enhances the stones’ brilliance and rich, vibrant color.

Left: Back of Visigothic Belt Buckle (c525-560), Cleveland Museum of Art

Right: Front Close-Ups of Visigothic Belt Buckle (c525-560), Cleveland Museum of Art

Originally attached to an ankle-length belt, this handcrafted buckle once belonged to a woman. Pretty and practical, it was more than just a blingy accessory. Visigothic buckles were a form of portable wealth, as well as a status symbol. Many have been discovered in Visigothic graves. Bright and beautiful, this gorgeous buckle is a stylish addition to any wardrobe, regardless of the age.

The Visigoth’s Brief Background: The Visigoths were a western offshoot of the Goths, a Germanic people. Originally farmers, the Visigoths lived in modern-day Romania until they were invaded by the Huns in 376 CE. The Visigoths fled west and settled in Roman territory. The Romans agreed to let the Visigoths live on their land, but they were often targeted by Roman officials and shaken down for money and goods.

Visigothic Belt Buckles (c525-560), Cleveland Museum of Art

In 378, the Visigoths defeated Emperor Valens (328-378) and his Roman troops at the Battle of Adrianople. His successor, Emperor Theodosius I (347-395) negotiated an alliance with the Visigoths, which granted them territory in Moesia (modern-day Balkans) on the condition the Visigoths help defend the border. Around this time, the Visigoths converted to Arian Christianity.

Left: Visigothic Belt Buckle (c550-600) Metropolitan Museum of Art

Upper Right: Visigothic Harness Pendant with Mounted Horseman (6th century) Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lower Right: Visigothic Lyre-Shaped Belt Buckle (c550-600) Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 395, after the death of Theodosius I, the Visigoths moved into Italy and for the next decade waged war with Rome. Led by King Alaric I (c370-410), the Visigoths eventually sacked Rome in 410. Alaric died later that year. Under the leadership of Ataulphus (died 415), the Visigoths eventually settled in Spain. However, in 507, they lost a decisive battle at Vouillé along with much of their land and possessions to the Franks. The final blow came in 711, when North African Muslims, under the leadership of Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād, invaded Spain and roundly defeated the Visigoths.

Left: Piece of Visigothic Crucifix from Treasure of Guarrazar (late 600s) Musée de Cluny, photo by Ángel M. Felicísimo

Right: Visigothic Votive Crown from Treasure of Guarrazar (late 600s) Musée de Cluny, photo by Ángel M. Felicísimo

Best known for their sacking of Rome, the Visigoths also produced exquisite metalwork. In addition to their blingy buckles, Visigothic craftsmen also made votive crowns, crucifixes, and jewelry. In 1858, a treasure trove of Visigothic valuables was discovered near Toledo, Spain. Scientists believe the valuables were buried in an effort to hide them from invading Muslims. Click on this Treasure of Guarrazar link to learn more.

That wraps up our look at Visigothic buckles. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. In the meantime, be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂

Cover photo by Alicja, courtesy of Pixabay.


Britannica: Visigoth
Cleveland Museum of Art: Visigoth Belt Buckle (c525-260)
Guarrazar: Tierra de Reyes
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Visigoth Belt Buckle (550-60 CE)
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Visigoth Belt Buckles
Musée de Cluny: Treasure of Guarrazar
Spurlock Museum of World Cultures: Visigoth Belt Buckle (6th century CE)
University of Notre Dame: Guarrazar Treasure
World History Encyclopedia: Visigoth

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