British Museum Pilgrims’ Badge Display

Published: Wednesday 15th February 2012 Author:

To highlight the contribution of the Society of Thames Mudlarks to our understanding of the past, and to coincide with the second series of Mud Men, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has organised a small display on pilgrims' badges in Room 2 of the British Museum.

On display are six pilgrim souvenirs:

  • Our Lady of Willesden (2 examples)
  • Our Lord
  • Henry VI
  • St Thomas Becket
  • a Canterbury Bell;

Two of these badges (of Willesden and the Canterbury Bell) were found during the filming of Mud Men series 2 the others were loaned by Ian Smith (Society of Thames Mudlarks). Also on display is a replica pilgrim badge mould and badges of St Etheldreda and a Canterbury Bell, made by Colin Torode (Lionheart replicas), and one of Colin's carving tools. To highlight the role of pilgrim badges as souvenirs, and also proof of pilgrimage, are also displayed some modern souvenirs.

In the medieval period it was believed that badges touched upon holy shrines would absorb some of the magical powers of the associated saints, and people would travel afar in the hope of the protection of a saint, or be cured of an ailment, disease or absolved of a past sin. From the time of the martyrdom of St Thomas (1170) until the sixteenth century Reformation, pilgrimage was very popular for people from all walks of life, as demonstrated by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. More pilgrims' badges including a mould of a St Thomas badge can be found in the Medieval Europe gallery (Room 40) of the British Museum.

Contact: Michael Lewis 02073238611

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