Holiness Clay. Unique finds in Poznan’s Old Market Square

What did Gutenberg do before printing the first Bible? What does Lech Wałęsa have in common with a medieval pilgrim? These seemingly different questions relate to a particular class of effects.

For almost two years now, on the site of the Old Market Square, the residents of Poznań have had a big hole. The ongoing renovation of the city’s most important square was preceded by archaeological research. The staff of the Archaeological Museum worked mainly in front of the town hall, that is, in a place that was the real epicenter of the medieval city. The muddy, uneven surface strewn with manure and rubbish literally swallowed the fallen bodies. Thanks to this, after 700 years, the lost, undiscovered elements were again brought to light.

Also read: A large hole in the center of Poznan hides secrets. Today we consider them shameful

Among them, the gray lead badges evoke a lot of feelings.

– These are the so-called pilgrimage signs, – says research leader Caterina Zisopoulou-Blega – they often depicted specific saints or relics associated with individual sanctuaries. From the literature we know of silver or gold-plated objects, but the vast majority were cast on a large scale of lead and tin. The idea was to cater to the needs of thousands of pilgrims annually, – explains Zesopoulou-Bliga.

The sign of the pilgrimage was also… the scallop. More precisely, an appetizing mollusk shell, which today is inextricably linked not only with the sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela, but also with the trail itself. In addition to real shells, Pilgrims could buy their own cast versions of cheap metal. Other havens have picked up on the idea. The souvenir business was a serious source of income for the craftsmen who bought a concession from the church for the production of paintings. In Regensburg alone, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, more than 120,000 devotional articles were sold annually.

A cross can be part of a rosaryK. Zisopulu

On the basis of the found pilgrimage signs, archaeologists already know that it was the inhabitants of Poznań who most willingly visited the holy places located in Aachen, Maastricht and Cologne. From the latter city comes a very fine painting depicting the Adoration of the Magi. Effectiveness does not mean beauty. The craftsman who made the mold had very heavy hands.

Pilgrims from Cologne painting found in Poznań. It represents the worship of the MagiP. Tokarczyk

The paintings differed in quality of detail but also in construction. Some are full, others are open. The latter often imitated motifs known from Gothic architecture. Sometimes they were pasted over with colored paper, which created a contrast with the silver metallic and caught the eye, – explains the research leader.

Badges, unlike today’s crosses or epaulets, were not worn around the neck under clothing. With the help of special holes, they were sewn to the greatcoats and hats or nailed to the sticks of pilgrims. It was a clear sign of the voyages made and evidence of the owner’s religiosity. More importantly, if the pilgrimage is an expiation imposed by the confessor or the court. In his own way, perhaps unconsciously, he referred to such imitation Why Walesa. The former chief is famous for wearing a badge with the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa brought by Jasna Góra in his lapel.

Pilgrim’s bell with inscriptionsK. Zisopulu

A badge is like a mascot

After returning to his hometown, Hajj did not put a souvenir in the trunk. The piece of lead continued to be worn on clothing or found its way into other exposed places.

– We know of cases when they were nailed to the headboards of beds, sewn into books, and even welded to tin wine jugs. Badges went with the dead to the graves, but they were also bequeathed as valuables. Not because of its material value, but because of its sacred value, says Katerini Zisopoulou-Pliga.

The painting coming from the holy place bears part of the power given by the antiquities preserved in the sanctuary. A bit like portable magic, an object in contact with another acquires some of its properties. Hence the insignia in the form of amphorae containing a little holy water or oil from a particular temple. The custom is still very good today, although lead ampoules have replaced plastic Maryjkas with a cap on the head. Paintings with mirror fragments were very rare and interesting.

Plaques found in Poznan

– In Aachen, when the dress of the Blessed Virgin Mary was worn once every seven years, people tried to catch her reflection in the mirror. In this way, the glow of holiness was discovered and it was believed that grace would accompany the owner of such a mirror forever – says the archaeologist and adds that Johannes Gutenberg himself, the famous innovator of the industrial printing technique, was involved in its production.

The offering of the aforementioned repertoire was a great ceremony which was not conducted in appreciative silence. The crowd tightly filled the naves, people screamed, fainted, and brass instruments played. It was a once in a lifetime event. It was hard not to bring a souvenir, and sometimes annoying as well.

– We found several bells in the Market Square in Poznań. Some may have come from ordinary horse harnesses, but I also have bells covered with devotional inscriptions, which we interpret as pilgrimage marks – says the interlocutor.

A fight between peasants and pilgrimsThe painting is in the collection of the National Museum in Wroclaw

It’s Poznan time!

The paintings discovered on the Old Market Square in Poznań are especially interesting, because earlier this class of monuments had not been found in the capital of Wielkopolska. Archaeologists jealously looked at their colleagues from other cities who had a lot. In the coastal city of Gdansk alone, more than a thousand such nails or their fragments were found!

Now that has changed and Poznań finally has its paintings, also thanks to the use of metal detectors during the search. The devices made it possible to improve the localization of small traces in the viscous mud of the Middle Ages. The paintings are further evidence that medieval Poznan was open to the world and its population was mobile. From pilgrimages they brought not only God’s grace and religious paraphernalia, but also new goods and ideas.

Head search Pilgrim status and signs found She actually gave a lecture on them. Now he has another science dream.

– We are still waiting to find our badge from Poznań – says Zysopoulou-Blija. – This must exist, because since the 15th century, the Corpus Christi Church founded by Władysław Jagiełło has been thriving in Piaski in Poznań. The sanctuary attracted crowds of pilgrims, also from outside Poland, who could not return empty-handed! – says the archaeologist.

The black layer in the excavation file is medieval shavings from which the most interesting artifacts originatea. Przybylsky

author:Alexander Przybylski

Main image source: K. Zisopulu

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