Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/140

This page needs to be proofread.


MEDALS


112


MEDALS


both faces tlio Ipgcnd SumcssA \'ivAS, an "acclama- tion" which prol)al)ly indicates that the medal was cast for a certain Siiccessa to commemorate, perhaps, her dedication to God. On one side w'c see repre- sented the martyrdom of a saint, presumably St. Lawrence, who is being roasted upon a gridiron in the presence of the Roman m.agistrate. The Christian character of the scene is shown by the chrisma, p_ the A and il. and the martyr's crown. On the'T* re- verse is depicted a cancellated structure, no doubt the tomb of .St. Lawrence, while a figure stands in a rever- ent attitude before it holding aloft a candle.

A second remarkable medal, which bears the name of Gaudentianus on the obverse and Urbicus on the reverse, depicts seemingly on one face the sacrifice of Abraham; on the other we see apparently a shrine or altar, above which three cantlles are burning, towards which a tall figure carrying a chalice in one hand is conducting a little child. The scene no doubt rep- resents the consecration to God of the child as an oblate (q. v.) by his fa- ther before the shrine of some martyr, a custom for which there is a good deal of early evidence. Other medals are much more simple, bearing only the chrisma with a name or perhaps a cross. Others impressed with more complicated

_ devices can only be

From "Bullettino di archeologia dated with difBculty, cristiana" and some are either

spurious, or. as in the case particularly of some repre- sentations of the adoration of the Magi which seem to show strong traces of Byzantine influence, they be- long to a nmch later epoch. Some of the medals or medallions reputedly Christian are stamped upon one side only, and of this class is a famous bronze medallion of very artistic execution discovered by Boldeti in the cemetery of Domitilla and now preserved in the Vati- can Librar}'. It bears two portrait types of the heads of the Apostles SS. Peter and Paul, and is assigned by de Rossi to the second century. Other medallions with the (confronted) heads of the two apostles are also known and a lively controversy largely based on these medallic materials has been carried on regarding the probability of their having preserved the tradition of an authentic likeness. (See particularly Weis- Liebersdorf, "Christus und Apostelbilder", pp. 83 sq.). Certain supposed early medals with the head of our Saviour are distinctly open to suspicion.

How far the use of such medals of devotion ex- tended in the early Church, it is not easy to decide. One or two passages in the works of St. Zcno of Verona have suggested that a medal of this kind was commonly given as a memorial of baptism, but the point is doubtful. In the life of St. Genevieve, which, despite the opinion of B. Krusch, is of early date, we read that St. Germanus of Auxerre hung around her neck a perforated bronze coin marked with the sign of the cross, in memory of her having consecrated her \'irginity to God (Mon. Ger. Hist.: Script. Merov., Ill, 217). The language seems to sug- gest that an ordinary coin was bored for the purpose, and when we recall how many of the coins of the late empire were stamped with the chrisma or with the figure of the Saviour, it is ea.sy to believe that the or- dinary currency may often have been used for similar pious purposes.

During the Middle .\ges. — Although it is probable that the traditions formed by the class of objects which we have been considering, and which were equally familiar at Rome and at Constantinople, never


entirely died out, still lit lie evidence exists of the use of medals in the .Middle .\ges. No traces of such ob- jects survive reinarkalile either for artistic .skill or for the value of the metal, and to >|>(ak juisitivcly of the date of certain objects of lead and \<r\\ icr which may have been hung round the nirk h itli a religious intent, is not always easy. But in the course of the twelfth century, if not earlier, a very general pract ice grew up at well-known places of pilgnmage, of casting tokens in lead, antl sometimes probably in other metals, which served the pilgrim as a souvenir and stimulus to devotion and at the same time attested the fact that he had duly reached his destination. These signacula (ensciyncx) known in English as "pilgrims' signs" often took a medallic form and w-ere carried in a con- spicuous way upon the hat or breast. Giraldus Cam- brensis referring to a journey he made to Canterbury al)out the year 1180, ten years after the martyrdom of St. Thomas, describes himself and his companions returning to London "cum signaculis Beati Thomse a collo suspensis " [with the tokens of St. Thomas hang- ing round their neck] (Opera, Rolls Series, I, p. .5.3). Again the author of Piers the Plowman writes of his imaginary pilgrim:

An hvnidred of ampulles on his hat seten,

Signes of sy.'<e and sliclles of Galice;

And many a cnjiiche on his cloke, and keyes of Rome,

And the vernicle bifore, for men shulde knowe

And see by his signes whom he sought hadde.

The "ampulles" probably represent Canterbury, but may have been tokens of the Holy Tear of Ven- dijme (see Forgeais, "Collection", IV, 65 sq.); Syse stands for Assisi. The "shelles of Galice", i. e. the scallop-shells of St. James of Compostella ; the crouche, orcro.ss, of the Holy Land; the keys of St. Peter; the "vernicle", or figure of the Veronica, etc. are all very familiar types, represented in most collections of such objects. The privilege of casting and selling these pilgrim's signs was a very valuable one and became a regular source of income at most places of religious resort.

Then, as maner and custom is, signes there they bought . . .

Each man set his silver in such thing as he liked, writes a fourteenth-century satirist of one of these shrines. Moreover we find that the custom was firmly established in Rome itself, and Pope Innocent III, by a letter of 18 Jan., 1200 (Potthast, "Regesta", n. 939), grants to the canons of St. Peter's the monopoly of casting and selling those "signs of lead or pewter impressed with the image of the Apostles Peter and


Mei).a.l or Gaudentianus From "Bullettino di archeologia cristiana" Paul with which those who visit their thresholds [li- mina] adorn themselves for the increase of their own devotion and in testimony of the journey which they have accomplished", and the pope's language implies that this custom had existed for some time. In form and fashion these pilgrims' signs are very various and a considerable literature exists upon the subject (see especially the work of I'^orgeais, "Collection de Plombs histories", 5 vols., Paris, 1864). From about the twelfth century the castmg of these devotional objects contmued until the close of the Middle Ages