Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Whann that Aprille....

BTW, anyone who hasn't been living in a cave for the last few weeks has probably heard that Master Chaucer now hath a blog. It's very silly. :)

California, where I live, has certainly had more than its share of "shoures soote" this year -- I think we are at 250+ percent of our normal rainfall for March and April. And to think that when I was in England, people were apologizing to me about the weather! It may have been gray and cloudy there, but it wasn't this wet.

However, since I did "go on pilgrimage", among the things I brought back were a few photos of pilgrim badges from the Museum of London.

Again I have to apologize, because I took these my first day there, when I hadn't quite figured out how to get the best close-up shots on my camera yet. (I hadn't actually used it that much before this trip.) Here are a few badges that I particularly liked.


The strawberry plant and crescent are probably "livery" badges, worn to show affiliation with some particular noble family. The badge on the far right is clearly Saint George. The square knot with a purse hanging from it could mean something (I don't know what) but it could also be purely decorative or a good-luck charm: apparently wearing a "full purse" image was supposed to attract money to the wearer.

One of the things I've been meaning to talk about for awhile is the fact that a rosary, along with a broad-brimmed hat, a haversack and a staff, seems to be one of the standard attributes of people shown as religious pilgrims. Here's an example we've already looked at: this is a woman, Saint Reneldis (various spellings) from the late 7th century, who became a nun in what is now Belgium after making a seven-year pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

One of the pilgrimage badges I photographed in London is also of a pilgrim, this time a monk or friar. No floppy hat, but he does have the staff and a BIG (probably larger than life!) rosary.


A few more pilgrims with rosaries: the one on the left is Saint James, with a scallop shell on his hat. (The anonymous pilgrim on the right is credited to the sculptor Hans Lutz, working around 1514 in South Tyrol.)

Saintjames 7005746 7005214

And here's a woman pilgrim, again without the hat: I'm not sure where I got this woodcut originally, but it was labeled as showing Chaucer's Prioress.


I started collecting "pilgrim" photos for this article in the first place because I saw this Santiago rosary for sale on eBay. It features both a scallop shell and a "Santiago Cross" (from Santiago de Compostela, the shrine of St. James). This particular Santiago cross is "fitchy" (a delightful word, meaning pointed at the base). This convention indicates it's being shown as if it were a staff, with a point you can stick into the ground.

Santiago rosary

Last but not least, there's this pilgrimage badge, which I'm not showing you here because it's X-rated. And yes: it's a reproduction of an actual medieval badge. It is euphemistically described as "Louise, on pilgrimage" and you will note that she has the hat, the rosary, and an (ahem!)-topped staff.

These satirical badges are great fun: I admit to owning this one, and sometimes using it to pin a rosary to my sleeve. People who see and recognize it always do a double-take; apparently I don't come across as the sort of person who would wear such a thing. It's quite funny to watch their faces.