Celtic Secrets in Enchanting Gold, What is the Story Behind the Braganza Brooch?
The story of a warrior and animals depicted in a small but gorgeous ancient fibula increases the pulse of researchers and others who are passionate about Celtic history. Of the dozens of precious golden artifacts made by artists whose names were lost through time, one became a highlight of the impressive and fascinating treasures bought by the British Museum in the 21st century.
The fibula (brooch) was made during the 3rd century BC, probably by a talented Greek artist who was hired by an Iberian client. The story of this remarkable treasure started in the workshop of a craftsman, who, with his skillful fingers and tiny tools, shaped a piece of gold into a gorgeous form. The artifact was used as a fibula on a coat or a similar piece of clothing. It is unknown who first owned this luxurious brooch, but the owner was wealthy and perhaps important in his/her society.
The Beauty of Art and Problematic Symbolism
The brooch is full of symbolic aspects. The decoration on the fibula shows a naked warrior whose only ''clothing'' is a typical Celtic helmet and impressive Celtic shield. He also has a sword, and he protects himself from the dog jumping on him. Is it a fight scene? It seems to be a representation of human power, and the dog has a symbolic meaning. Moreover, there is also a depiction of a wild boar. The animals look a bit like sophisticated dragons from an ancient tale.
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An artist’s interpretation of the story the Braganza Brooch may have been depicting. ( CC BY NC SA )
The interpretations of the decoration may be different, but according to Fernando Quesada:
“The Braganza fibula warrior wears what has long been identified (Stead, Meeks 1996) as a helmet of the Montefortino type (Fig. 83), which belongs to the family of Italo-Celtic helmets a botone (Tagliamonte 2003), a bouton sommital (Feugère 1994), knopfhelme (Stary 1994), or jockey-cap (Robinson 1975). The characteristically decorated lower rim has led some scholars to believe, rightly in our opinion, that the original it was meant to represent was the bronze variant rather than the iron one (Stead, Meeks 1996: 12). The main features of the Braganza helmet are: a rounded, globular profile of the bowl, a knob (a crest holder) on the top, lower rim decorated with a cable or ‘rope’ pattern, very short and almost horizontal neck guard, and the remains of two soldered plumeholders on both sides of the helmet. We’ll also comment on the significant absence of cheekpieces. The shape of the bowl points towards a relatively late type (3rd century BC onwards), while the decorated rim seems to rule out a very late variant such as the Buggennum type of Caesarian times (Waurick 1990) Also, the neckguard –and the probable bronze manufacture– lead us away from the typically alpine, Celtic iron helmets with independent, riveted neckguard (Schaaf 1974). Overall, all the features mentioned above point towards a fairly late helmet of Italic type (3rd to 2nd century BC), used by Roman legionaries, other Italic peoples –including Cisalpine Celts-, but also by Carthaginian soldiers and, from the final decades of the 3rd century BC, also by the Iberians.”
Detail of the warrior and jumping dog. ( CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )
It measures about 14 cm (5.51 inches) in length. Most similar artifacts were made of silver, and if they were decorated with human depictions, they were of warriors on horseback, sometimes with a company of dogs. In the case of the Braganza brooch, however, a boar's head was added. It also had a spring and pin, but these elements have been lost. The number of interpretations of the symbolism and theories related to the origins of the fibula are countless, but still cannot explain all the features of this artifact. However, the beauty of the ancient treasure brought royal interest.
Comparison of the Braganza Brooch with a silver fibula. ( CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )
Owners of Celtic treasures
The history of the artifact’s owners is fascinating too. It was in the collection of the Royal House of Braganza, for which it gained its name. It was probably bought by the consort of Queen Maria of Portugal, Ferdinand II of Portugal. He was highly sensitive to beauty and created several incredible castles, gardens, and renewed beautiful old sites in Portugal. However, his reign took place at the end of the remarkable story of the Portuguese Monarchy. All the treasures he collected became a source of conflict at the beginning of the 20th century. The Braganzas were the prominent family, not only in Portugal, but also in Brazil. Many of the family members hoped to inherit the expensive pieces as a part of their fortune.
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However, in 1919 dozens of the remarkable jewels of the Portuguese royal family traveled to America. HRH Nevada of Portugal Princess d'Braganza and Duchesse d'Oporto took it to America when she decided to start a new life there. It stayed with her until she died in 1941, when the fight for her goods started once again. However, all the treasures had been sold in auction. All the artifacts were bought by Warren Piper of Chicago, who sold them in 1950 to another collector - Thomas F Flannery Jr. After many years, the brooch finally became a part of the British Museum’s collection in 2001.
Façade of the British Museum. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )
The Glory of An Old Brooch
Despite its current location, many Spaniards believe that the object should belong to one of the collections of the Iberian Peninsula. This hope may not come true any time soon, however, the British Museum responds positively to invitations for exhibitions of many of its artifacts in other places.
The Braganza Brooch. ( CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )
Top Image: The Braganza Brooch. Source: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
The Braganza Brooch warrior and his weapons: the Peninsular context by Fernando Quesada, available at: https://www.uam.es/proyectosinv/equus/warmas/online/Quesada2011Braganza.pdf
The History of the Braganza Gold Brooch by Dyfri Williams, available at:
The Braganza Fibula by Henrique Correia Braga and Sofia de Ruival Ferreira, available at:
The Braganza Brooch, available at: