During the Middle Ages, one of the main fears of pilgrims and other travelers in the Mediterranean was that they would fall prey to raiders or pirates of a different faith and be sold into slavery in a foreign land. The small lead token here reflects this fear. It depicts a clean-shaven saint, dressed in military costume and mounted on a warhorse, with a smaller figure riding behind him. The scene is from a popular story of the miraculous rescue of a Christian from Muslim captivity through the agency of a warrior saint. The token was distributed at the holy shrine of St. Demetrios in the city of Thessaloniki in northern Greece. Objects like it may have been regarded as charms to ward off future perils or as mementos of a dangerous journey successfully accomplished.
The image brings together stylistic elements from indigenous Byzantine and imported Western European artistic traditions, in a manner not uncommon to religious art from the era of the Crusades.
Teresa Shawcross, Associate Professor of History and Hellenic Studies
A. Cutler, "Everywhere and nowhere: the invisible muslim and christian self fashioning in the Culter of Outremer", in D. Weiss and L. Mahoney, France and the Holy Land: Frankish culture at the end of the Crusades (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).
V. N. Zalesskaya, Piligrimy: istoriko-kulʹturnai︠a︡ rolʹ palomnichestva: sbornik nauchnykh trudov, (Sankt-Peterburg: Izd-vo Gos. Ėrmitazha, 2001).
"Acquisitions of the Art Museum 1997," in "A Window into Collecting American Folk Art: The Edward Duff Balken Collection at Princeton," special issue, Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 57, no. 1/2 (1998): p. 164-208.
Eklego: newsletter of the Michael Ward Gallery (Fall, 1997).