The Sutton Hoo treasure, £9.99
Height: 29.000 mm
Width: 27.000 mm
P&E MLA 1913 6-19 38
Prehistory and Europe
Pilgrim badge depicting St George and the dragon
England, about AD 1400-1550
This medieval badge is made of lead. It shows St George killing the dragon, watched by the lady Una, whom he is rescuing.
Hundreds of pilgrim badges like this have been found in Britain. These personal objects vividly bring to life the faith of medieval Christians. Going on pilgrimage was an important part of Christian belief in medieval Europe. Pilgrims often travelled hundreds, even thousands, of miles to visit a saint's shrine. Some pilgrims just wished to be close to the remains of their favourite saint. Others hoped to find miraculous cures or were seeking forgiveness for sins. But pilgrimages could also be a form of holiday.
Pilgrim badges were mass-produced in moulds and were cheap so everyone could afford them. People wore them attached to clothes and hats or around the neck to show where they had been on pilgrimage. Most pilgrimage souvenirs are found in or near rivers, because people thought it brought good luck if they threw them into water.
The souvenirs usually show a saint, their symbol, or a scene from their life. This helps us to identify the shrine from which a badge came. This badge was probably a souvenir of a pilgrimage to Windsor. The Royal Chapel there contained relics of St George and was the centre for an important order of knights, the Order of the Garter. The cult of St George was particularly popular at the end of the fifteenth century.
From the collection of the British Museum