Stirrups of François Ier
The gilded bronze stirrups are embellished with a salamander topped with an open crown, the tail making a double-loop knot or cord knot, surrounded by flames. Below, inside two text areas the words “NUTRISCO ESTINGO” (I maintain the good fire, I destroy the bad) are inscribed. The magical animal, a symbol of invulnerability, just like the inscription “F(ranciscus) rex”, designate François I.
An origin as illustrious as this did not fail to excite the imaginations of 19th-century antique dealers. At the time the stirrups were taken to be wreckage of the plundering of the Battle of Pavia (1525) during which François I had been captured by the troops of Charles Quint before being sent into detention in Spain. As appealing as this story was, the hypothesis was unable to survive historical critic: research has established that the stirrups were kept at the Abbey of Saint Denis during the Ancien Régime. Their longstanding presence in the royal necropolis can without a doubt be explained by the ceremonial funerary rituals of sovereigns, during which a funerary effigy of the deceased monarch was built accompanied by his helmet, his gauntlets and his spurs. A “horse of honour” completely clothed in black crepe, but saddled and harnessed, opened the funeral cortege. During the funeral of 1547 he was most certainly equipped with the salamander stirrups. For all that, because of their emblematic richness and their physical quality, the stirrups are fit for a grand ceremony, which seems incompatible with a funeral. It is more likely that they were found in the royal armoury when they were taken for the funeral of François I.