Tuesday, June 14, 2005

St. Christopher's purse

It's probably a truism that when you become interested in something, you start seeing it everywhere. That's certainly been true for me with rosaries and paternosters. They turn up in an incredible number of period paintings, especially portraits -- once you start looking for them. I was staring at a photo of a statue not too long ago when I suddenly recognized I was looking at a small accessory I hadn't expected to see. It's a "disk" rosary -- one of the much less common types that uses a string of flat disks as prayer counters, rather than round beads. This is a wooden statue from about 1520, depicting St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child. It's currently in Cologne, in the cathedral treasury. In the close-up photo, take a look at what's hanging from St. Christopher's belt on his right side (the viewer's left), on top of his purse. It's a loop of about ten round, flat disks with holes in the middle on some sort of central string. The disks look as though they might be somewhere between 1/2 inch and an inch in diameter. Since this is a statue, of course, they are displayed nice and flat where we can see them clearly, rather than as jumbled as they would probably be if St. Christopher himself were posing for the photo . Christophers-purse I think this is a disk rosary, because I'm comparing it with this one, one of the relatively rare surviving examples: Boxtape I'm delighted to have found this, because it's only about the third or fourth historical instance I've seen of a rosary of this type.