This chap is John Schorne, a thirteenth century miracle worker. During a drought, he's said to have struck the ground with his staff, and water poured forth. From then on, pilgrims flocked to the well to drink the holy water and to be cured of gout. Those who visited the well would very likely have bought a badge as a souvenir of their trip, like the one represented above.
This is a replica pilgrim badge, based on an original design. It sits on my desk to help me with my writing. Not by working miracles, (though some days it would be handy!) but by helping me to understand faith, religion and miracles in the past.
Having something tangible to ground your writing was a tip given to me by fellow History Press author Anne Strathie. She writes biographies, and told me that she likes to have some tangible link to the person she's writing about close to hand, to keep them real and to keep her focussed.
I'm currently writing Holy Blood - the second in the Eden Grey series, and the historical part of the action is set at Hailes Abbey, and concerns a relic known as the Holy Blood. During the middle ages, Hailes was one of the major pilgrimage sites, as it housed the blood of Christ. It's likely that Hailes, too, would have sold pilgrim badges with images of the Holy Blood, but I haven't yet been able to track down what a Hailes badge looked like. In the meantime, John Schorne reminds me that during the time I'm writing about, people believed that seeing a holy relic could earn them some time off in Purgatory.
It helps me to build the world view of someone who knows that when he or she dies, their soul will spend some time doing penance before they're allowed into heaven, and that the length of time spent there is negotiable through prayer and religious observances.
The pilgrim badges bought by those who visited shrines served not only to show others where their devotions had taken them, but was a tangible reminder that they had done everything they could for the sake of their soul.
A little badge, a scrap of metal, yet it helps me to connect with a world view and absolute faith that otherwise would be alien to me.
Kim Fleet lives and works in Cheltenham. Her two cats help the creative process by standing on the delete key.