Healing power of badges
In medieval Europe, the miraculous properties of pilgrims’ souvenirs were widely believed. The badges were used for treatment by soaking them in wine or water, which was supposed to give liquids healing powers.
A document written around 1172 in the Liber Miraculorum de Notre-Dame de Rocamadour, or ‘book of miracles’, describes how a priest from Chartres was healed when his mother applied a Rocamadour badge to his aching body.
In turn, the sanctuary of St Judoc in Saint-Josse-sur-Mer on the Atlantic was crowded by pilgrims as early as in the 8th century. A Bavemont resident who was blind from birth was to regain her sight after washing her eyes with water in which St Judoc previously washed.
Water from a well in Blomberg also had miraculous and healing properties, where a burgher woman called Alheyd threw 46 ‘enchanted’ hosts, just after Easter 1460. She was burned at the stake, but soon there were many miracles and healings, and the inflow of pilgrims was so significant that the income allowed to build a new church and monastery buildings. The host’s desecration scene was immortalised on the pilgrims’ badges sold there. A scholar Carthusian, Jan Hagen noted: pilgrims seek salvation not in the sacrament of the altar, but in the water from the well […], and the badge from Blomberg instead of Christian symbols contains a representation of an evil woman.
To places of worship important for medieval Pomerania many researchers include the sanctuaries in Kentz near Barth and Stralsund, where, thanks to the miraculous image of Maria Pommeran placed in the branches of an old lime tree, miraculous springs spurted and numerous healings occurred. There are also mention of Rowokół near Smołdzin (the sanctuary was built on a Slavic stronghold) and the church on Święta Góra (near Polanów) with the miraculous image of Maria and figures of 12 apostles made of pure gold; in addition, in Osieki on the Lake Jamno ‘Holy Blood’ was worshiped.
From the beginning of the 15th century, many pilgrims came to the grave of Blessed Dorota of Mątowy in Kwidzyn. On 9 September 1395, the Pasłęk parish priest and the Pomesanian canon, Bartłomiej Boruschow and other diocese scholars, signed the litterae graduatorum, in which they asked the pope to canonise Dorota, justifying: her glorious body buried here is visited by many people from different countries, kingdoms, nations, languages, praising and lauding God in miracles and signs which he accomplishes through her. According to the testimonies of the beatification process, healing took place in 81 out of 146 pleading cases.
Ampullae, both metal and glass, in the form of vials and pottery ones were used to store the wonderful liquids. They were often worn around the neck like an amulet or attached to clothing. The ampullae meant much more than the pilgrims’ badges because of the sacred content.
To date, ampullae have been found in Gdańsk in the Main City (at ul. Szeroka 92), in Wyspa Spichrzów (at ul. Basztowa 1), at ul. Stągiewna 24, in Wiadrownia next to Zamczysko at ul. Wałowa – all in layers dated to the end of the 14th – early 15th century.
• Josse Lieferinxe ‘Pilgrims at the tomb of St Sebastian’.
• Lucas van Leyden ‘Resting Pilgrims’.
Edited by Dr hab. Henryk Paner, Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk