The Medal of Saint Benedict

by Fr. Bernardine Patterson OSB



Note: This article was originally published in The Scriptorium IX (1949), a publication produced by the junior monks of Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota.

[Reverse]THERE IS NO MEDAL which possesses such wonderful power, and which is more highly esteemed by the holy Church than the Medal of St. Benedict. Whosoever wears this Medal with devotion, trusting in the life-giving power, may expect the powerful protection of the great Patriarch of Western Monasticism in time of spiritual and temporal needs.

The Medal of St. Benedict is more correctly called the Medal-Cross of St. Benedict. It is so termed because it is a medal on which is inscribed a Cross, or on which are found the letters of the Cross of St. Benedict. Since the years 1647-1650, the Cross of St. Benedict was imprinted on medals of oval or round forms, accompanied with the characters taken from a certain document, the so-called Metten-Munich Manuscript of which we shall treat later. After 1741-1742 there was joined to the Cross the likeness of St. Benedict, so that the one side of the Medal-Cross had his image, while the other carried the Cross and the letters which form the Cross of St. Benedict. The medals have been struck in various forms: round, oval, oblong, and square, while the design on the Cross was, at various times, Greek, Latin, or Gothic. The size of the medals also varies--some are about as large as an American dime, others the size of a nickel, a quarter, a half dollar, and even larger.

From the few facts that history gives us regarding the Medal of St. Benedict, we are justified in concluding that it must have been known under one form or another, and perhaps even in use among the faithful, several hundred years before 1647. At this latter period, however the Medal was little known.

The honor of having his image appear on a medal the reverse side of which bore the Cross, was conferred on St. Benedict--the strong, grave, and noble character of antiquity, the last of the real Romans--as a mark of the efficacy that the sacred sign of the Cross held in his regard.


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