A 'STUNNING' chalice which dates back to the 1600s is on display at one of York's most historic sites - and possession of it could have led to death in the 17th century.

This Easter, the Bar Convent in York, the oldest living convent in the UK, reveals new research into the recusant chalice, with engraved depictions of the Stations of the Cross.

The chalice, designed to separate into three pieces, has now been officially dated to the 1630s. This was a time when Catholicism was illegal and the punishment for being caught in possession of such a chalice might have been death.

Dr Hannah Thomas, special collections manager at the Bar Convent, said: “We are very grateful to Dr Claire Marsland at Ushaw College for researching this chalice. It is a highlight of the collections on display in our exhibition, which tells the history of the building and its residents.

“We were aware that the chalice was a 17th century piece, but were unable to date it with certainty. Through extensive research, Claire has officially dated the object to 1630. In addition, she has been able to trace its likely provenance to a silversmith in London, who marked his pieces ‘RM’, whereas our records only noted that it had been donated in 1769, as part of the opening of our illegal 18th century chapel, by the Constables of Everingham, a prominent local Catholic family whose daughters came to the school at the convent.

York Press: A detail of the 1630s recusant chalice with depictions of the Stations of the CrossA detail of the 1630s recusant chalice with depictions of the Stations of the Cross (Image: PA)

“When the Convent was established, it was one of only two permanent Catholic communities in England, both of which were run by the sisters of this congregation.

“As such, this building became a place of safety for precious relics and other Catholic objects to be kept and protected. Many families that had kept these items hidden away for generations returned them to the church by giving them to the convent - and the sisters here became the guardians of the church's legacy.

“With such an important collection, it is crucial that we discover all that we can on the objects in our possession, such as this chalice, that people have risked their lives to preserve.

"Not only is the beauty of the chalice something to be appreciated, but it represents so much more about the religious, social and political turbulence at the time.”

York Press: The Chalice is on display at Bar Convent over EasterThe Chalice is on display at Bar Convent over Easter (Image: PA)

The chalice is on permanent display in the exhibition. To mark Easter, the chalice is on display alongside one of the Bar Convent’s mother of pearl Stations of the Cross and the ‘True Cross’- one of very few with authenticity documents.

There will also be an Easter crafts corner for any younger visitors. Entrance to the exhibition is £6 for adults, £4 for concessions and £2 for children. The Bar Convent is closed over the Easter Bank Holiday.