Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/142

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MEDALS


114


MEDALS


following an usage long previously in vogue in the case of Agnus Deis (((. v.), of giving a papal blessing'to medals and even of enriching them with indulgences. On the other hand it is noteworthy that among the bencdiction-fornis of the Middle Ages no single exam- ple is found of a blessing for numismata. A pilgrim's "insignia" were often lilessed no doubt, but by this term were only meant his scrip and staff (see Franz, " Kirchlichen Benedictionon ini Mittelalter", II, 271- 89), not the leaden tokens spoken of above. The story nnis that the u.se of blessed medals began with the revolt of the (Uieux in Flanders, a. d. 15()6. A certain medal or rather set of medals bearing on the obverse the head of Philip II with the motto en tout FIDELES AU Roi and on the reverse a beggar's wallet and the words .h'sque a tohter la besace, was used by the Gueux faction as a liadge. To this the Span- iards replied by striking a medal with the head of our Saviour and on the reverse the image of our Lady of Hal, and Pius V granted an indulgence to those who wore this medal in their hats (Simonis, "Art du IVM- dailleuren Belgique", 1904, II, pp. 76-80).

From this the custom of blessing and indulgencing medals is said to have rapidly extended under the sanction of the popes. Certain it is that Sixtus V attached indulgences to some ancient coins discovered in the foundations of the buildings at the Scala Santa, which coins he caused to be richly mounted and sent to persons of distinction. Thus encouraged, and stinmlated further by the vogue of the jubilee and other papal medals of which we have still to speak, the use of these devotional objects spread to ever}' part of the world. Austria and Bohemia seem to have taken the lead in introducing the fashion into central Europe, and some exceptionally fine specimens were produced under the inspiration of the Italian artists whom the Emperor Maximilian invited to his court. Some of the religious medals cast b_v Antonio Abondio an<l his pupils at Vienna are of the highest order of excellence. But in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries almost every considerable city in Catholic Europe came to have craftsmen of its own who fol- lowed the industry, and the tradition created by such Italian artists as Lesne Leoni at Brussels, with men like Jonghelinck and Stephen of Holland for his pupils, and by John de Candida, Nicholas of Florence and Benvenuto CelUni in France, was bound to have lasting effects.

The number and variety of the religious pieces pro- duced at a later date, as Domanig (Die deutsche Pri- vat^Medaille, p. 29) is fain to attest, defies all classifi- cation. Only one writer, the Benedictine L. Kuncze (in his "Sy.stematik der Weihmunzen", Raab, 188.5), seems to have seriously grappled with the task, and his success is verj- moderate. As an indication of the vast complexity of the subject, we may note that in the thirty-first of his fifty divisions, the section de- voted to medals commemorative of churches and sanctuaries of the Blessed Virgin, he enumerates over 700 such shrines of which he has found some reconl — the number is probably immensely greater — while in connexion with the majority of these, special medals have at some time been struck, often, e. g. at Loreto, in an almost endless series. Under these circum- stances, all that can te done is to point out a few illus- trative groups rather apart from the common run of pious medals; those connected with places, con- fraternities, religious orders, saints, mysteries, mira- cles, devotions, &c., are types with which everyone is familiar.

(1) Plague medals struck and blessed as a protection against pestilence. The subjects are very various; e. g., the figure of St. Sebastian and St. Roch, and different shrines of the Blessed Virgin, often also with a view of some particular city. Round them are com- monly inscribed mysterious letters analogous to those depicted on the famous medal of St. Benedict (q. v.).


For example f- z- t- D . I . A . etc. These letters stand for "Crux Christi salva nos"; "Zelus domus Dei libera me " ; " Crux Christi vincit et regnat, per lignum crucis libera me Domine ab hac peste " ; " Deus mens expelle pestem et libera me.etc. '. (See Beier- lein, "Munzer bayorischer Kloster", and the mono- graphs devoted to this subject by Pfeiffer and Ruland, " Pestilentia in Nununis", Tubingen, 1882, and "Die deutschen Pestamulctle ", Leipzig, 1885.)

(2) Medals comnwnioratiiKj Miracles of the Eucharist. — 'There were a very large number of these struck for jubilees, centenaries, etc., in the different places where these miracles were believed to have happened, often adorned with very quaint devices. There is one, for example, commemorative of the miracle at Seefeld, upon which the story is depicted of a nobleman who demanded to receive a large host at communion like the priest's. The priest complies, but as a punish- ment for the nobleman's presumption the ground opens and swallows him up (see Pachinger, " Wall- fahrts Medaillen der Tirol", Vienna, 1908).

(3) Private medals. — These form a very large class, but particular specimens are often extremely scarce, for they were struck to commemorate incidents in the life of individuals, and were only distributed to friends. Baptisms, marriages, first communions, deaths formed the principal occasions for striking these private medals. "The baptismal or sponsor medals (pathen medaillen) are particularly interesting, and often con- tain precise details as to the hour of birth which would enable the child's horoscope to be calculated. ^See Domanig, "Die deutsche Privat-Medaille", Vienna, 1893, 3, pp. 25-26.)

(4) Medals commemorative of special legends. — Of this class the famous Cross of St. Ulrich of Augsburg may serve as a specimen. A cross is supposed to have been brought by an angel to St. Ulrich that he might bear it in his hands in the great battle against the Huns, a. d. 955. Frei.senegger in his monograph "Die Ulrich.s-kreuze " (Augsburg, 1895), enumerates 180 types of this oliject of devotion, sometimes in cross, sometimes in medal form, often associated with the medal of St. Benedict.

Papal medals do not immediately belong to this place, for they are not preci.sely devotional in purpose, but a very large number of these pieces are ultimately associated with ecclesiastical functions of various kinds, and more particularly with the opening and closing of the Holy Door in the years of Jubilee. The series begins with the pontificate of Martin V, in 1417, and continues down to the present day. Some types professing to commemorate the acts of earlier popes, e. g. the Jubilee of Boniface VIII, are reconstructions (i. e. fabrications) of later date. Nearly all the most noteworthy actions of each pontificate for the last five hundred years have been commemorated by medals in this manner, and some of the most famous artists, such as Benvenuto Cellini, Caradosso, and others have been employed in designing them. The wonderful family of the Hamerani, who from 1605 down to about 1807 acted as papal medallists and supplied the greater proportion of that vast series, deserve to be specially mentioned for the uniform excellence of their work.

Other semi-devotional medals are tho.se which have been struck by important religious associations, as for example by the Knights of Malta, by certain abbey.s in commemoration of their abbots, or in connexion with particular orders of knighthood. On some of these .series of medals useful monographs have been written, as for example the work of Canon H. C. Schembri, on "The Coins and Medals of the Knights of Malta", (London, 1908). It has been said above that Agnus Deis seem to have been blessed by the popes with more or less solemnity from an early period, and similar forms of benediction were used in connexion with the Golden Rose, the Sword and Cap, and other