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Gutenberg and Pilgrim badges

Theresa Brandon

Artist, photographer, dreamer
Time of past OR future Camino
Inglés '18, Ingles '19, Ingles '22, Portugues '22
2023 Camino Guides
The 2023 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Time of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Thank you for posting this article about "pilgrim mirrors" and the connection to Gutenberg!

I had read a bit about pilgrim badges in the past and there have been forum threads about the topic but I had not been aware of this. The forum threads nearly inevitably turn to the relatively rare erotic pilgrim badges which are really such a minor topic that quickly becomes boring. This topic - technology and how it both reflects and changes way of life and thinking - is a lot more fascinating!

Of course, there are no "pilgrims mirrors" related to Santiago because unlike Aachen and unlike nearly every other major medieval pilgrimage site in Europe, their main relics were never shown - neither permanently nor on special days - to the thousands and thousands of pilgrims who flocked to the sanctuary.

BTW, I am not quite sure that the editor chose the right photo to illustrate badges of the "pilgrim mirror" category. For me, it is difficult to understand where the mirror was supposed to be in the badge that is shown in focus in the photo. 😇
Time of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
The majority of these very thin and fine metal pilgrim badges have been lost, and we know only about them because they had been used as templates for the decoration of church bells. Below is such an example, also from the Aachen sanctuary, where one can see that the mirror that caught the light rays from the holy relic was placed in the middle. The top circle illustrates the Holy Robe relic, one of the main treasures of Aachen. The large third circle shows Jesus and the Three Marys at the tomb.
(Click to enlarge)
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Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Vézelay/Francés 2011, Primitivo 2012, VdlP 2013, Via Domitia 2014, Inglés 2015, Francigena 2016
If anyone is near Dover (Kent, UK) on 24 September they can have a go at making their own, as part of the wonderful five-day Kent Pilgrims Festival


Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015 CF, 17.04.-26.05.22 CF
15.04-31.05.23 CF
I think I saw one of the pilgrim mirrors at the Guttenberg museum in Mainz. I do talk about these mirrors as one of his failed business ventures when we go by his statue in Frankfurt while touring.
Camino Way markers in Bronze
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that makes the ones you see on your walk.
Time of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
As I said, I had not known about this, and now I am in a real "look what I found" mode. 😇

First, Saint Sebaldus. Like other early Anglo-Irish missionaries to Germany and other regions, he was eventually venerated as a saint. His burial place became a pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages, in this case Nuremberg. Like Saint James and other saints, he is often depicted as a pilgrim, with pilgrim badges on his hat. Nothing specific, it can be a Saint James shell, a Vera icon, the keys of St Peter or any of the many other motifs.

The painting on the left shows three pilgrim badges on Saint Sebaldus' hat. The one in the middle is a "mirror badge", apparently an Aachen badge. Of course, Sebaldus was not a pilgrim to Aachen or to Rome or Santiago for that matter. These paintings show us the pilgrim badges that were worn by medieval pilgrims themselves and provide an insight into the medieval world and mindset.

The painting on the left is even more intriguing; unfortunately it comes without any explanation about what's shown on the pilgrim's hats. Apparently, pilgrims sometimes just caught the wondrous light rays from relics with the help of a small mirror that was not incorporated in a decorative small metal badge, and the mirror itself became the souvenir or amulet or carrier of healing powers (or whatever we want to call it) to take home and to treasure. And to me the item on the hat of one of the three pilgrims on the right looks exactly like such a small mirror, doesn't it ... ?

Mirror badges.jpg
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