Historical information

Ciborium is the ancient Greek word for the cup-shaped seed vessel of the Egyptian water lily "nelumbium speciosum" and came to describe a drinking cup made from that seed casing. These vessels were particularly common in ancient Egypt and the Greek East. The word "'ciborium'" was also used in classical Latin to describe such cups.
In medieval Latin, and in English, "Ciborium" more commonly refers to a covered container used in Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and related churches to store the consecrated hosts of the sacrament of Holy Communion. It resembles the shape of a chalice but its bowl is more round than conical and takes its name from its cover, surmounted by a cross or other sacred design.

This ciborium is part of a Communion Set that was recovered from the wreck of the Schomberg in 1975 after 120 years in the sea. Five years later during the cleaning of the ciborium, a diamond ring was found secreted in the underside of the ciborium's lid. This ring has since come to be called the Schomberg Diamond and is also on display as part of the Flagstaff Hill Museums Schomberg collection.

In 1975, divers from Flagstaff Hill (Peter Ronald, former Director of Flagstaff Hill, Colin Goodall and Gary Hayden), found an ornate communion set at the Schomberg wreck site. The set comprised a jug, the ciborium, a chalice and a plate. The ciborium remained untouched for a number of years before restoration began and the marine growth was removed. In 1980 a piece of the lid broke off, revealing a glint of gold. As museum staff carefully examined the lid and removed marine growth, they found a diamond ring, which is currently on display in the Great Circle Gallery at Flagstaff Hill. The collection also holds ship fittings and equipment, personal effects, a lithograph, tickets as well as photographs from the Schomberg.

ABOUT THE SCHOMBERG (October 6 to December 27, 1855)-

When the ship Schomberg was launched in 1855, she was considered the most perfect clipper ship ever to be built. James Baine’s Black Ball Line had commissioned her for their fleet of passenger liners. The Aberdeen builders designed her to sail faster than the clippers designed the three-masted wooden clipper ship to be fast. The timber used for the diagonal planking was British oak with layers of Scottish larch. This luxury emigrant vessel was designed for superior comfort. She had ventilation ducts to provide air to the lower decks and a dining saloon, smoking room, library and bathrooms for the first-class passengers.

The master for Schomberg’s maiden voyage was Captain ‘Bully’ Forbes. He drunkenly predicted at her launch that he would make the journey between Liverpool and Melbourne in 60 days. Schomberg departed Liverpool on 6 October 1855 with 430 passengers and 3000 tons of cargo including iron rails and equipment intended the build the Geelong Railway and a bridge over the Yarra from Melbourne to Hawthorn.

The poor winds slowed Schomberg’s sail across the equator. She was 78 days out of Liverpool when she ran aground on a sand spit near Peterborough, Victoria, on 27 December; the sand spit and currents were not marked on Forbes’s map. The ship’s Chief Officer spotted the coastal steamer SS Queen at dawn and sent a signal. The master of the SS Queen approached the stranded vessel and all of Schomberg’s passengers safely disembarked.


This ciborium is significant as an example of an item in common use in the mid-19th century that is still in use today. It is also important for it relationship with the famous Schomberg Diamond that was discovered by accident, hidden inside it.
The ciborium is particularly significant in that along with other items from the wreck helped in part to have the legislation changed to protect shipwrecks, with far tighter controls being employed to oversee the salvaging of wreck sites around our coast.
This salvaged item forms part of the Schomberg collection at Flagstaff Hill maritime museum. The collection as a whole is of historical and archaeological significance at a State level. Flagstaff Hill’s collection of artefacts from the Schomberg is also significant for its association with the Victorian Heritage Registered Schomberg shipwreck (VHR S 612). The collection is of additional significance because of the relationship between the objects salvaged, as together they help us to interpret the story of the Schomberg. The collection as a whole is historically significant for representing aspects of Victoria's maritime history and its potential to interpret social and historical themes from society at the time of the wreck.

Physical description

Silver engraved Ciborium or chalice with lid, part of the five-piece Communion Set. The chalice is a round cup with a long stem and a floral-shaped base with embossed decoration. It has a matching round lid that comes to a rounded apex on top.

Inscriptions & markings

Engravings on chalice feature flowers and a Fleur-de-lis pattern.