Reading Abbey pilgrim badge
1250 to 1400
This copper alloy pilgrim badge may have originally been a Roman coin or a thick medieval jetton (counter). The decoration on one side shows the three scallop shells that represent the shield of Reading Abbey. The scallop shell is the symbol of St James the Apostle, whose alleged hand was the principal relic of Reading Abbey and was a great draw for pilgrims. Around the shield are three illegible words in Gothic script.
Pilgrim badges were acquired by those who had made a long journey to a religious site as a way of proving they had visited. It is similar to collecting a souvenir. This example was found in Reading, Berkshire.
Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121. It was one of the most significant religious foundations in the country, well endowed by the founder and his successors. The Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. The Abbey became the property of the Crown and the Abbot’s house became a Royal palace. The destruction of the Church and monastic buildings began in 1548 after Henry VIII's death and continued for the next hundred years.
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