Conny Waters – – A medieval pilgrim’s badge depicting a basilisk dragon in a circle enclosed was found in Wólka Nieliska, Zamość district, in southeastern Poland.

Medieval Pilgrim's Badge ('Pilgrim's Sign') Depicting A Basilisk Dragon In A Circle Discovered In Southeastern Poland

Image credit:  Lublin Voivodeship Conservator of Monuments/ Facebook

Also referred to as the “pilgrim’s sign,” the badge is a small openwork plaque – a pendant cast from an alloy of lead and tin, with a circular shape with a diameter of 2.8 cm and a thickness of about 1 mm.

The conservator of monuments said the artifact “depicts a ‘basilisk’ dragon enclosed in a circle. Such badges served as a talisman to ensure the wearer’s success in the journey and to protect such a person from all kinds of evil, like assault, theft, diseases, and other random accidents.

A small object of this kind is known to be given to pilgrims at a shrine or sacred place as evidence of their visiting it. Such badges were also a way to differentiate oneself and manifest one’s destination.

The Polish region has only a handful of discoveries like this. The Museum of Archaeology and History in Stargard has in its collection six such badges, which were discovered during archaeological research in this town. These artifacts were meticulously analyzed and detailed by Mrs. Iwona Wojciechowska.

Individual examples of such badges have been recorded in Poznań, Żarnów, and Strzelin,” the conservator emphasized.

On the other hand, the history of badges in Western Europe dates back to the early Middle Ages.

They had various forms and shapes – circular, quadrangular, in the form of a cross, shell, ring, or shield. They depicted figures of saints, knights, heads of people and busts, and zoomorphic figurines (birds, animals, dragons). The oldest pilgrim badges are associated with the Way of St. James, have the shape of a clamshell, and date back to the eleventh century.

Noteworthy is also that particularly the “Thomas Becket” badge associated with the cult of St. Thomas Becket, the martyr) gained popularity in the mid-twelfth century.

Pilgrim signs spread on a large scale from the 13th century onwards and were very popular until the 16th century.

As the conservator reminded, large collections of pilgrim signs can be found in museums in Western Europe.

Nauka w Polsce 


Written by Conny Waters – Staff Writer

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