Lewis Chessmen in Shetland

National Museums Scotland


I have had a bit of writer’s block today.  I wanted to write something that I was passionate about, something i could get excited about and i was coming up against a brick wall time and time again.  Lots of lovely things, some interesting developments in David’s Tower at Edinburgh Castle (http://heritage.scotsman.com/heritage/Edinburgh-Castle-uncovered-Exploring-the.6711347.jp), lots of great places to see and stay but somehow my heart wasn’t engaged with any of  it at the moment.

however, then i found my old friends, the Lewis Chessmen who i am fanatically interested in.  they are now being shown at the Shetland Museum and Archives from Friday 21 January – Sunday 27 March 2011 and it is FREE!  fantastic, now if only i lived a bit closer to the Shetland Islands.

it appears that there are four sets of the Chessmen in a hoard of 93 pieces, including kings, queens, bishops, knights, warders and pawns.  National Museums Scotland owns 11 pieces, including …

1.  a king on his throne, looking unhappy and holding a scabbard across his knees.

2.  another king with an open four-trefoiled crown and his hair in long braids down his back.  wearing a long mantle and underneath, he is dressed in a tunic and vestment with sleeves and slit sides.

3.  a disgruntled-looking queen seated on a throne and cradling her chin with her right hand, while holding a drinking horn in her left hand.

4.  another queen, this time wearing a veil beneath a crown that covers her hair and she is sitting on a throne decorated with delicate foliage design.

5.  a bishop standing while giving a blessing with his right hand.  he is wearing a mitre on his head and holding a crosier in his left hand.

6.  another bishop wearing a floor-length cape over his shoulders (one similiar to those worn by the clergy today).

7.  a berserker who,  according to Old Norse literature, was notorious as fighting uncontrollably in a trance-like state.  he has bulging staring eyes and bites his shield in anger, ready for battle.

8.  a knight, wearing a protective coat, divided at the front and back for ease of movement.  he is carrying a kite-shaped shield and a lance.  he is also sitting on a horse, which appears to be the size of a Shetland pony.

National Museums Scotland postcard


i was also quite chuffed to find an online store where you can buy all sorts of gifts related to these lovely little people http://shop.nms.ac.uk/categories/Gifts/Lewis-Chessmen.  there are full chess sets, single full replica pieces, books, bottle stops, key chains and for those of us who are a bit limited in cash, 50p will buy you a postcard (as shown above).

website for more info is http://www.nms.ac.uk/our_museums/national_museum/special_exhibitions/lewis_chessmen_tour.aspx or you can click on my Tags under “Lewis Chessmen” as i’ve written a couple of other posts on them.


2 thoughts on “Lewis Chessmen in Shetland

  1. thanks Christine. there is something very special about these little figures. it is a dream of mine to some day have a chess set of them but to be honest, i would settle for even one little replica piece. it would be hard to decide on just one though. 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you

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