A Simple Puzzle

Recently whilst in Ghent Cathedral, I stumbled upon this plaque. The writing has faded but the inscription can still just be made out. It relates to a large artwork entitled “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck, which normally resides within the Cathedral, but which is currently undergoing restoration (although thanks to the good people at Agfa, there is a wonderful life-size replica hanging in a side chapel).

The inscription on the plaque reads:

PICTOR HVBERTVS AB EYCK MAJOR QVO NEMO REPERTVS
INCEPIT PONDVSQVE JOHANNES ARTE SECVNDVS
FRATER PERFECIT JVDOCI VYD PRECE FRETVS
VERSV SEXTA MAI VOS COLLOCAT ACTA TVERI

Which translates to:

Hubrecht van Eyck, the most famous painter ever known
Started this work of art; his brother Jan, who was second in the art
Finished the task at the request of Joos Vijd.
With this verse the donor consigns the work to your charge on May 6th 1432.

The last line of the plaque poses an interesting little puzzle. Why has the engraver highlighted some letters in red?

Well you might have noticed something special about those particular letters – they are all used in Roman Numerals, thus:

I = 1
V = 5
X = 10
L = 50
C = 100
M = 1000

And if we simple read along the line, adding up the highlighted values as we go, we get:

5 + 5 + 10 + 1000 + 1 + 5 + 100 + 50 + 50 + 100 + 100 + 5 + 1

Which equals 1432, the year the artwork was completed.

Neat, don’t you think?

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About Words of Little Relevance

Freelance stage manager; software and web tester; Excel and map geek; Tweeter; Blogger and Cake Eater. Often back-stage in and around Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire where I move scenes, or play with lights or sound.
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4 Responses to A Simple Puzzle

  1. litadoolan says:

    This is a perfect treasure for me because I went to Ghent on a tour and the day we went the famous Church was closed (duh!) so seeing this experience shared is rescuing some of that holiday!

  2. Pingback: Ghent – The Acrostic In The Cathedral | Creative Geekery

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