Medieval pilgrim badges in the shape of scallop shells. Artist: Unknown
1-192-548 - © Museum of London/Heritage-ImagesTweet
Medieval pilgrim badges in the shape of scallop shells. The scallop shell is the symbol of St James, and the site of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain has been a pilgrim destination for hundreds of years. The badges signified that the pilgrim had completed the journey. Some were brooches with pins, others were pierced and could be worn around the neck, or pinned to cloth. It was believed that the very touch of such a badge could heal the sick and dying. Cheaper versions were mass produced and sold to the hundreds of thousands of travellers who visited shrines and pilgrimage sites each year, some for the completion of a penitential journey, others just went for a trip to the country. Many pewter pilgrim badges have been found in the River Thames in London by modern 'mudlarks', licensed metal-detectorists searching the foreshore. They may have been thrown into the river by returning pilgrims as thanks for a successful journey.