This floor tile from the Museums Worcestershire collection was discovered during excavations at the Commandery in 2005-6. The tile is likely to be of local Worcestershire production, and dates from the 14th century when the Commandery was still serving its original purpose as a monastic hospital – a function which it fulfilled for 500 years.
The tile is thought to have been part of a single paved area, demolished sometime between the late 18th – mid 19th century. By this period, the Commandery had become a family home, and was later transformed into a pioneering school for the blind sons of gentlemen.
The tile is decorated with a four legged beast with a long curved tail. There has been some debate as to whether this creature is a dragon or a wyvern, but the lack of wings on this example may suggest that it in fact represents a dragon. The image of a dragon on this Worcester-made tile, and in the context of its original location within a monastic hospital is thought-provoking. Perhaps the image alludes to the legendary stories of Saint George, famous amongst many other saints for his traditional run-in with a dragon.
The dragon has been universally adopted, and adapted, throughout the last millennium, and across the world. There have been many suggestions as to the origins of dragon and wyvern myths – snakes, crocodiles, sea creatures, dinosaurs and even rainbows have been suggested as the common origin of the mythical beast. In Chinese traditional culture, the dragon has been viewed as a symbol of strength and good, whereas more fearful tales from other cultures present the dragon as a villain.