I had never heard of the Pyx Chamber at Westminster Abbey, and so I made a point of finding out about it online. I discovered it to be a fascinating corner of the abbey….as well as being probably the oldest part. It is also believed to have the most ancient door in England, which for centuries was believed to have been covered in human skin.
The source of this gruesome belief is a robbery that took place in the chamber in 1303 in the reign of Edward I. This king used the Pyx Chamber as his royal treasury, and the chamber was believed to be the most secure place imaginable. How wrong. The treasure was stolen, and suspicion fell upon the Benedictine monks of the abbey, but eventually the culprit was discovered to be a man named Pudlicote (presumably from the Oxfordshire village of that name, south of Chipping Norton). He was found with some of the treasure in his possession and had pawned a lot of the rest. His vile punishment is where the human skin cladding of the door comes in.
To read all about the Pyx Chamber and its intriguing history, go to this site.
And should you wonder what “Pyx” means, well the Westminster Abbey website explains? “….It takes its name ‘Pyx’ from wooden boxes in which silver and gold pieces were kept secure to await the Trial of the Pyx – melting down the measured silver content as a way of showing that the coinage was pure – established in 1281….”
PS: We can relax, the ancient door was only covered in cow hide!