A PIECE of medieval art found by a metal detector in the Ribble Valley is to take its place among the relics of saints and martyrs.

The scrap of twisted silver was found by Paul King, an aspiring archaeologist.

And the 'unique and exciting' object has earned its place in the Medieval Life case at the Museum of Lancashire.

The badge, the only one of its kind ever found in Britain, was discovered in a field in the Ribble Valley and is currently being valued by experts at the British Museum.

The 500-year-old object provides a link between rural Lancashire and the great pilgrimage sites of mainland Europe.

It shows one of the companions of St Ursula, one of the most popular mystical legends of medieval Europe.

She was said to be a British princess who sailed with 11,000 virgin companions to marry a pagan prince in Brittany, but diverted to go on a pilgrimage to Rome – and in some versions of the story, Jerusalem.

After many adventures they came to Cologne, where all were slaughtered by Hun tribesmen.

When a large cemetery of Roman era bones was found in the city in the 11th century, they were declared the remains of the saint and her companions, and her cult spread across Europe.

Mr King, 53, a logistics expert and member of the South Ribble metal detecting club, found the silver plaque at the end of April in a field some miles from his home in Walton-le-Dale, where he had already found several hundred Victorian coins.

When he returned to the site, historically believed to be the home of a rich landowner, with his new high-powered metal detector he discovered his most precious find.

He said: "I soon as I dug it out with the trowl I knew it was special. And when I cleaned off the soil this amazing face appeared.

“It is extraordinary and moving to think how much history is locked up in this little piece of metal."

Experts concluded that the badge would have been bought as a souvenir by a Lancashire pilgrim who had travelled to the shrine of St Ursula in Cologne church.

Michael Lewis, from the British Museum, said: "It is an incredibly exciting find.”