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The Saint Benedict Medal is an important, sacramental medal which holds deep meaning for Christians and Catholics throughout the world. The symbol has been traditionally used to call down the blessing of God upon the faithful and it’s believed that it gives protection. Let’s take a look at the history of the Saint Benedict Medal, its symbolism and how it’s used today.
History of the Saint Benedict Medal
No one knows exactly when the original Saint Benedict Medal was first created but it was initially made as a cross that was dedicated to St. Benedict of Nursia.
Some versions of this medal feature the image of the Saint holding a cross in his right hand and his book ‘The Rule for Monasteries’ in his left. Around his figure were certain letters said to be words, but their meaning has got lost over time. However, in 1647, a manuscript which dated back to 1415 was discovered at St. Michael’s Abbey located in Metten, Bavaria, which gave an explanation of the unknown letters on the medal.
According to the manuscript, the letters spelled out the Latin words of a prayer used to exorcise the devil. The manuscript also contained a picture of St. Benedict holding a scroll in one hand and a staff in the other, with its lower part shaped like a cross.
Over time, medals with the image of St. Benedict, the letters and the cross were being created in Germany and soon they spread all over Europe. Vincent de Paul’s Daughters of Charity wore the cross attached to their beads.
In 1880, a new medal was struck incorporating the features of the image found in the manuscript in honor of the 1400th anniversary of St. Benedict’s birth. This was known as the Jubilee Medal and is the current design in use today. While the Jubilee Medal and the Saint Benedict Medal are almost the same, the Jubilee Medal became the best-known design created to honor St. Benedict.
This brings us to the question – who was St. Benedict?
Who Was Saint Benedict?
Born in 480 AD, St. Benedict was known as a great man of conviction, courage and strength who influenced numerous people to convert to Christianity because of his faith and devotion. According to some sources, he preferred to live a life of solitude so he lived like a hermit in a cave, isolated from everyone else. However, the monks who lived nearby heard about him and invited him to join them as their abbot. When he visited them, the monks realized that they didn’t like his way of living and they tried to get rid of him by sending him poisoned wine. However, he was saved by a miracle.
Later, a second attempt was made to poison St. Benedict with bread (possibly by the same monks) but then too he was miraculously saved by a raven that flew away with the bread. He went on to settle in Monte Cassino where he established the Benedictine Monastery which became center of the monastic system of the church. It was here that he wrote his book of precepts, the ‘Rule of Benedict’. The book is a kind of guideline for anyone who is commited to monastic life. It became the norm and it’s still used in the modern world.
St. Benedict remained strong through to the end and he gathered his strength from his God to face his trials and tribulations. It’s said that six days before his death, he requested for his grave to be opened and soon afterwards, his health began to deteriorate. On day six, he received the Holy Communion and with the help of others, he raised his hands up to the heavens and then passed away. He died a happy death without any suffering.
Today, Christians around the world look up to him for inspiration and courage and his medal is a way to keep his teachings and his values close.
Symbolic Meaning of the Saint Benedict Medal
There are several images and words on the face of the the Saint Benedict Medal, which can be interpreted in various ways.
- The Cross – The face of the Saint Benedict medal shows the image of Saint Benedict holding a cross, the symbol of redemption and salvation for Christians, in his right hand. The cross reminds devotees of the work that was done by the Benedictine nuns and monks during the 6th and 10th centuries. They worked hard to evangelize Europe and England.
- The Rule for Monasteries – Seen in St. Benedict’s left hand, the Rule for Monasteries was his book of percepts.
- Poisoned Cup – This is depicted placed on a pedestal on the right hand side of St. Benedict. The cup was poisoned and according to the legend, it had been sent to the Saint by the monks who had wanted to poison him. When St. Benedict made the sign of the cross over the cup, it shattered instantly and he was saved.
- Raven – On the left side of the image is a raven ready to fly away with the poisoned bread that St. Benedict had received.
Because the medal contains several images that refer to poisoning, people began to believe that it would protect them against poisoning. It was also viewed as a medal that could offer protection.
The following words are also inscribed on the face of the medal.
- Crux sancti patris Benedicti – written above the raven and the cup, this means ‘the Cross of our Holy Father Benedict.
- Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! – these words are written around the image of St. benedict. They mean ‘May we be strengthened by his presence at the hour of our death’. These words were added to the design of the medal because the Benedictines considered St. Benedict to be a patron of happy death.
- ‘EX SM Casino, MDCCCLXXX’ – written under the figure of St. benedict, these words and numbers mean ‘Found from the Casino mountain 1880’.
The back of the medal features several letters and words.
- At the top of the medal is the word ‘PAX’ meaning ‘peace’.
- Around the edge of the medal are the letters V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B. These letters are an acronym for the Latin words: Vade retro santana, vade retro Santana! Numquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! In English, this means: ‘Begone Satan! Do not suggest to me your vanities! The things you offer me are evil. Drink your own poison!’.
- The four large letters in the circle, C S P B, are an acronym for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti which means ‘The Cross of Our Holy Father Benedict’
- The cross at the center contains the letters C S S M L – N D S M D which stand for: Crus sacra sit mihi lux! Numquam draco sit mihi dux, meaning ‘May the holy cross be my light! Let not the dragon be my guide!’.
Use of the Saint Benedict Medal
The Saint Benedict Medal is mainly used to remind devotees of God and to inspire the desire and willingness to serve God and one’s neighbor, but it’s also popular as an amulet.
- Although it’s not a talisman, some people tend to treat it as such and wear it on their person or keep it in their purse or wallet. The medal can also be placed in your vehicle, home or even at your workplace. Some prefer to hang it in front of their home to protect themselves from evil , while others incorporate it into the foundation of their new home.
- The Saint Benedict Medal is often viewed as a comfort in times of distress, giving strength, hope, courage and the feeling of being safe from the evils of the world.
- The medal is also used for calling down the blessings of God and his protection over believers.
- It’s also used as a prayer of strength when someone is facing temptation and as an exorcism prayer against evil.
- According to the prolog of St. Benedict’s ‘Rule’, the medal serves as a constant reminder of the need for devotees to take up their crosses daily and follow the words of path of Christ.
The Saint Benedict Medal in Use Today
Today, the traditional design of the Saint Benedict Medal is used extensively for religious jewelry designs, talismans and charms, believed to protect the wearer from evil. There’s a wide range of jewelry options available including pendants, necklaces and even earrings featuring the medal.
Below is a list of the editor’s top picks featuring Saint Benedict Medal Necklace.
The St. Benedict Medal remains an important symbol in Christianity used for spiritual protection, and continues to serve as a reminder of the Saint and his teachings. It’s one of the most popular Catholic symbols today.