The Medal of Saint Benedict

by Fr. Bernardine Patterson OSB


The Ordinary Medal

It was this type of Medal that Pope Benedict XIV approved in 1741 at the instigation of Abbot Benno Loebel. Abbot Benno had represented St. Benedict clothed in the habit worn by the monks at that time (1741). But since the Pope only prescribed that the Medal represent St. Benedict, not specifying how, it was not long before St. Benedict was pictured in many different manners. Since no one knew exactly how St. Benedict looked, the different artists endeavored to represent him on their Medal-Crosses in the way their artistry and fancy suggested. Most of them took various scenes in the Saint's life such as the cave at Subiaco where Benedict first donned the monastic habit.

Among those which were historically incorrect were the ones which pictured St. Benedict dressed in all the pontifical vestments, together with crosier, ring, sandals, etc., of a mitred abbot. St. Benedict was very probably not a priest, and in fact it is even uncertain that he was a deacon. Abbot Benno of Reichau was the first abbot to obtain the use of pontifical insignia, in the year 1008.

On the other hand, some were historically correct, though fancifully imagined, such as the one representing St. Benedict seated at the door of his monastery, having a book on his knees and a skull on the book, while the Saint looks in the direction of a tree, on one of the branches of which rests a black bird, which is without feet or beak. These curious Medal Crosses nevertheless carried the privileges of the blessing and the indulgences imparted to the Medal of St. Benedict, since they complied with the orders of Pope Benedict XIV, having both the Cross and the effigy of St. Benedict.


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