The Cathedral of Chartres was the object of a pilgrimage from at least the 9th century, when the Emperor Charles the Bald gave the church a very special relic which he had himself received from the Pope: a "tunic" or "shirt" (Latin camisa/French chemise), said to be the very one one worn by the Virgin when she gave birth to the Christ (here seen in a 17th century manuscript painting of the arms of the Chapter).
   The so-called "Voile de Notre-Dame," part of which is still preserved in the cathedral treasury (usually on display in a 19th century monstrance in the Chapel Saint-Piat) may --or may not-- be this ancient relic.
   In any event, at least four examples of Pilgrims' Badges --each different in form-- have survived and these are not only witness to the social history of the place, but also precious and unique evidence of various iconographic and, perhaps, liturgical details surrounding the cult of Our Lady of Chartres.
   Two of these (which we have styled for convenience "Badge 1" and "Badge 3" in the descriptions below) were found in the Seine in 1862 and published by Arthur Forgeais in 1863. A third ("Badge 2"), whose provenance is not clear to me, but also apparently from the 13th or 14th century, was published in 1876 by the archeological society of the Eure-et-Loir in an article by the local historian, A. Lococq.
   More recently, a fourth example ("Badge 4"), apparently from the last half of the 14th century, was discovered in excavations following the recovery of land which had been flooded since the 16th century, in an area known as "Nieuwlande" in Holland, and was published in 1993 in a general catalogue of the hundreds of badges and pilgrims' souvenirs found at this unusually rich site (Rotterdam Papers, VIII, p. 218).

   We offer here images of the four badges known to us, together with a brief description and analysis of what appears to be the subject matter of each.


(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Badge 1, recto
Badge 1, recto

  N.b. The images of Badges 1 and 2 --and those of the slightly larger ones to which they are linked-- should be considered inherently unreliable in their details.
  They are, after all, digitalized versions of recently made photocopies, of 19th century printings, of woodcuts(?) made for publication, after, presumably, the fragile and soft pewter originals --which themselves had lain in the mud of the Seine for several centuries before being recovered in 1863, and which have, apparently since been lost again (?)
  --I'd love to hear that this last is not true or that these objects have been published anywhere else, after the originals).
  When one considers that the 13th century artisan who carved the (stone?) moulds from which the original metal exemplars were cast was, himself, rendering as best he could the objects he wished to portray, it's worth keeping in mind that we are here very, very far away from a view of, for example, the cult statue of the Virgin.

Badge 1, recto

   The first (by apparent date) of the four known Chartres badges was found near the Pont Neuf in Paris in 1862, and seems to date from the early 13th century.
   It is roughly rectangular in form (having a partial trilobed arch on the top edge), with four holes at the corners for affixing it to, presumably, an article of clothing.
   On one side of this badge is a seated Virgin, crowned and nimbed, with the Child (in a cruciform nibmus) largely off center on her left leg, holding in his left hand the Orb.
   She may be holding a staff topped with a fleur-de-lys in her right hand, though it is curious that this feature —which is prominently articulated in various later examples— is barely visible (if at all) here (perhaps due to damage to the original).
   Her crown appears to be of a type found from at least the early 13th century, with four fleur-de-lys cardinally placed and longitudinally placed jewels in between; and she is seated on, perhaps, a cushion, the round ends of which are visible on either side of her, it in turn resting on some sort of bier, the ends of which are carried on the shoulders of two clerics (?), wearing long vestments, cinched at the waist, who march from left to right.
   Below these two —and much smaller in scale— are two figures on each side of the Virgin who seem to be touching the sacred hem of her dress. Two curious "towers," one on each side of the Virgin, are also on the bier . They are decorated (?) with a lozenge pattern, jewels (?) to be seen within each of the lozenges, and each tower topped by triangular (pyramidal?) form, itself capped with a round (spherical?) object. These vertical elements perhaps suggest the decorated throne on which the Virgin is often depicted. Above the Virgin (or rather, Her statue), and in part framing her head in the center, is a trilobed arch, containing the inscription: S[IGN]VM BEATE MAR[I?] [A??], with the "B" and the second "E" being in reverse.

Badge 1, verso
Badge 1, verso

(Published: Arthur Forgeais, Collection de Plombs historiés trouvés dans la Seine, duxième série, Enseignes de Pèlerinages (Paris, 1863), p. 28; A. Lococq, "Notice historique sur les enseignes de pelerinages et les chemissettes de Notre-Dame-de-Chartres," Societé archéologique d'Eure-et-Loir, VI, 1876, pp. 194-242; Jane Williams, Bread, Wine and Money (Chicago, 1993), fig. 139.)

 Badge 1, verso.

   On the reverse of this badge is a somewhat similar scene: two clerics (? again with long vestments, cinched at the waist), carrying (right to left) a bier, this time with an apparent shrine (the "sainte châsse," presumably) on top, inside[?] of which is, perhaps, the first surviving representation of the relic known as the camesa of the Virgin, the "shirt" which She was said to have worn when giving birth to the Christ (here seen in a 17th century manuscript painting of the arms of the Chapter). 
    Both flanking and above the image of the camesa, under its pitched reliquary[?] roof are a few "jewels." Between the two "clerics" who carry the reliquary is a large roundel, surrounded by a ring of round "jewels," within which is, perhaps, the curious emblem which may represent the town itself (Forgeais calls it a "denier chartrain," and it seems to have an early form of the "arms" of the city which is found on contemporary coinage).



Badge 3, recto

Badge 3, recto

   From the group found in the Seine in 1862 Forgeais also publishes another badge, its imagry somewhat similar in form and content on the recto: the Virgin is seated on a finely turned throne, above an arcaded footstool, with the Child balanced in the cruck of her left arm.
   She holds a staff topped with a prominent fleur-de-lys in her raised right hand while the Child holds an Orb in his left.
   She wears a stole over her head and shoulders, a crown with multiple fleur-de-lys, a jewelled border on the neckline of her undergarment, and a very prominent, lozenge-shaped broach with a cruciform pattern within it at the center of her breast.
   The whole is beneath a trefoil arch (perhaps topped with architectural motifs which have broken away) with the inscription "SIGNV[M] BEATE : MARIE".
On each side of the main image, however, the two figures have become kneeling supplicants and seem to wear different dress.
    Unlike the earlier badges, there seems to be an attempt here to more fully articulate the postures and draperies of the figures displayed. The Virgin has lost her residual axiality, her head tilts, ever-so-slightly, towards the Child, the folds of drapery between her knees are noted, and the two kneeling supplicants (the clerics carrying the bier have disappeared all together) have become prominent.
   On the reverse side, we again see the camisa, here with a cross-hatched pattern, flanked by two fleur-de-lys, perhaps within a stylized, bejewelled châsse (the top of the badge has not survived in tact) , between two columns (part of the châsse?).    The bier and its barers have disappeared, but below the fully-displayed camisa is again a roundel --a "denier chartrain," according to Forgeais-- with something resembling the arms of the city (with fleu-de-lys) within it.
  Forgeais suggested that this badge dates from the 14th century.

Special thanks for indispensible help with this page go to
Professor Sarah Blicks of Kenyon College,
and to Madame Claire Lebrecque,
Conservatrice of Manitoba's fine new
Centre du Patrimoine of the
Société historique de Saint-Boniface
Please note that neither of these scholars
is responsible for any
which might be found herein.

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